COVID-19 in UruguayAmid a global pandemic, finding hope is a grueling task. As the number of COVID-19 cases around the world passes 11 million, the economy continues to decline and workers and students are struggling to interact strictly online, people continue to ask themselves: what should we have done differently? From strict workplace policy to reduced flights, it is painfully clear that the world has changed in a multitude of ways. What is unclear is what will work in the future for both public health and the economy. There are very few countries that have fully recovered since the initial outbreak of COVID-19; however, one country has truly beaten the odds during this pandemic with exceptional grace: the developing nation of Uruguay. 

Despite sharing a border with Brazil, a coronavirus epicenter, the nation has not had more than 100 active cases for nearly 30 days. As part of the slow reopening of the country, there have been lots of changes in the daily life of the people, local businesses and the nationwide culture. Consequently, the spread of the COVID-19 in Uruguay has been kept to a bare minimum. In fact, since the initial outbreak, Uruguay has reported Compared to the 3 million cases in the United States alone, these shocking numbers have left American policymakers wondering where exactly they went wrong.

How They Did it

The incredibly low rate of the COVID-19 in Uruguay is not the result of luck or chance. Rather, it is the result of a well adjusted and thoughtful policy that puts the health and safety of the people first. Luis Lacalle Pou, the President of Uruguay since March 2020, was faster to act than the leaders of their neighboring countries. He issued a voluntary lock-down and moved to close down the nation’s borders only a few weeks after taking his position in the office. At the time, these bold initiatives were considered to be premature to dozens of other nations. However, acting early significantly slowed the spread of COVID-19 in Uruguay.

Officially, the nation has made a number of changes in order to maintain public safety. Uruguay has closed its borders until an undetermined date, and the Ministries of Health and Interior have encouraged the public to self-quarantine while those 65 years and older have been mandated to self-quarantine. 

In addition to the early actions on part of the Pou administration, the overall structure of the nation has contributed to the low spread of the deadly disease. The low population density makes daily life easier when performing essential tasks such as grocery shopping. Since Uruguay is only roughly the size of the American state of Missouri, with a population of only around 3.45 million people, social distancing is a much simpler process compared to neighboring Latin American countries, European nations or the United States. 

The Impact

Given the incredibly low spread of the COVID-19 in Uruguay, the Latin American oasis has been able to make the return to normal life. Recently, Uruguay became one of the first countries in the Americas to reopen smaller schools in rural regions. This has allowed kids in the poorer areas of the nation to continue to receive the education that they need even during a pandemic. Nearly 700,000 children have been able to return to school with the nation’s new educational initiative with a rotation between online and in-person classes. 

With the continual efforts from the current administration and healthcare workers, it is expected that people will be able to return to work soon. Additionally, with millions of people able to come back to work, the economy is likely to bounce back from the global recession in a stronger position than dozens of other nations. The small nation of Uruguay has proven itself to be one of the most resilient nations in the world during these unprecedented times. The Uruguayan people have given the rest of the world hope that the return to normalcy is closer than expected if the proper precautions are taken. 

 Daniela Canales
Photo: Pixabay

poverty in Uruguay
Situated on the Atlantic coast of South America is Uruguay, the second smallest country on the continent. With a population of more than 3.4 million and about 60% of them comprising the middle class, Uruguay stands as one of the most economically stable countries in the region. In fact, Uruguay has the lowest poverty rate in South America and is ranked high on such well-being indices as the Human Development Index. In building a secure place as a country, Uruguay has witnessed improvements as well as hindrances in various aspects of its society. Here are six facts about poverty in Uruguay.

6 Facts About Poverty in Uruguay

  1. Life is improving: The percentage of the population living on less than $3.20 per day in Uruguay significantly decreased from 2006 to 2017. While the rate peaked at 3.7% in 2006, it dropped to 0.4% by 2017. In accordance with the near eradication of extreme poverty, the moderate poverty in Uruguay also decreased from 32.5% in 2006 to 8.1% in 2018.

  2. Child labor: In Uruguay, child labor affects 8% of the 8 to 14 year olds. These children work long hours for low wages. In order to make meager earnings to financially support their families, many children in Uruguay forgo school education to work under unfavorable conditions. There has been little progress made to reduce child labor, as the percentage of children ages 5 to 14 in the workforce remained at a relatively constant rate of 6.1% in 2016. Nonetheless, certain organizations like the Telefónica Foundation have been working to raise awareness of and prevent child labor in Uruguay. One program under the organization is ProChild, which was established in 2000 and has developed since then to include a network of 10,000 participants. Another organization that helps children shift out of labor is the MIDES Youth Affairs Bureau. It employs various programs that keep children from entering the workforce at a young age by implementing education services and training.

  3. Higher quality of water sanitation: With the help of the World Bank Group, Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE) is now able to provide drinking water to 98% of Uruguayans. In previous years, there had been a chronic shortage of water supply and sanitation services in Uruguay due to the combined effect of low labor productivity and severe floods and droughts. However, with financial support from the World Bank Group, OSE has been able to significantly reduce water loss and continue its upward trajectory of water and sanitation quality.

  4. Decrease in unemployment: In 2002, Uruguay experienced an economic crisis that significantly impacted the country and created widespread unemployment, However, the unemployment rate decreased significantly over the next decade. It was estimated to be 7.6% in 2017 and remains low to this day. Still, the unemployment rate among the young generation has not fared well and continues to rise.

  5. Equitable income levels: There are still disproportionate rates of child- and afro-descendent-Uruguayan populations living below the national poverty. However, income levels in general have seen improvements. Among the poorest 40% of the population, average income levels have risen faster in comparison to the entire population’s average growth rates.

  6. Low gender inequality: The labor market participation ratio between female and male workers in Uruguay is the fourth highest in Latin America. Although the salary gap still exists, as in many of the OECD countries, there has been a steady flow of both female and male laborers into the workforce of Uruguay.

Multiple organizations have stepped up to address and improve the issue of poverty in Uruguay. One such organization is Caritas, which works to provide aid for the poor, from those who have been deprived of liberty to those who lack access to education. Especially through education, training and counseling, the organization has been able to help the most vulnerable groups in Uruguay to cope with their challenging situations.

Despite the recent progress made toward the issue of poverty in Uruguay, certain fundamental limitations in the funding of systems like infrastructure and education have constrained the maximum potential for growth. Certain groups like children and women remain more vulnerable to poverty. Nevertheless, the government has successfully implemented policies and efforts to close the gap between classes over the past years. Now, Uruguay stands on par with many other well-positioned countries around the world with relatively little aid from organizations.

Seunghee Han

Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Education in Uruguay
Uruguay is a country of around 3.4 million on the east coast of South America. Uruguay’s government has invested highly in its public education system, as evidenced by its high literacy rate of 98.6 percent for the population, progressive policies for equitable education and free college. This article highlights 8 facts about the current picture of education in Uruguay in addition to education policy.

8 Facts About Education in Uruguay

  1. Primary, secondary and public university education are free of cost. The affordability of public education is largely responsible for Uruguay’s high literacy rate of 98.6 percent, roughly comparable to that of the United States.
  2. Unlike the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) countries, an autonomous administration creates and implements Uruguay’s education policies rather than a ministry of the executive branch. This means that Uruguay has a highly centralized education system with the National Public Education Administration (ANEP) overseeing all public schools from preschool through university. The Ministry of Education and Culture regulates only private preschools and private universities; the ANEP creates all public education policy.  However, ANEP does not clearly define the role of the central authority as opposed to the many sectorial education councils, and therefore, there is a lot of internal competition that results in bureaucratic inefficiency.
  3. Education is compulsory from ages six to 11, and thus, the Uruguayan people have universally achieved primary education. All children in Uruguay receive a free primary school education and the majority of children also receive a non-compulsory preschool education at ages four and five.
  4. Less than one-third of Uruguayans complete secondary school and this rate is increasing more slowly than in other Latin American countries. In 2017, only 56 percent of adults over 25 had a middle school education in Uruguay, and only 30 percent had graduated from secondary school.
  5. The average Uruguayan will spend 16 years in school, but they will also repeat grades. Both Uruguayan and American students will spend an average of 16 years in school, but Uruguay’s grade repetition rate is high compared to other Latin American and international countries. Grade repetition is why students in Uruguay will spend so long in school, but still, only half will finish middle school.
  6. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds complete school at much lower rates, but the government has responded by placing a heavy emphasis on social equity in education policy. Uruguay has increased funding and resources for low-income primary and secondary schools, as well as introduced targeted programs for at-risk students to encourage them to stay in school.
  7. Uruguay has invested heavily in its education system, but emigration has prevented the country from reaping the rewards of this investment. Some of the most successful students choose to leave Uruguay for better career prospects in the United States or Spain. Currently, around 18 percent of Uruguayans live abroad.
  8. Uruguay’s student-teacher ratio is one of the lowest in the world. With a classroom student-teacher ratio of 13.8 to one, Uruguay approaches the small classroom sizes of countries like Sweden and Iceland. Small class sizes often contribute to greater student success as they allow for every student to have more one-on-one attention from the teacher.

Uruguay’s education system is far from perfect, but the government has worked hard to promote education, make it accessible to all and empower those with fewer resources to gain an education as well. Overall, the country still has work to do, but its education system has achieved a lot of success and every year more people graduate with high school and college degrees than the last.

– Macklyn Hutchison
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in UruguayUruguay is a medium-sized country on the south-east coast of South America with a population of just under 3.5 million people. According to the World Bank, “Uruguay stands out in Latin America for being an egalitarian society and for its high per capita income, low level of inequality and poverty and almost complete absence of extreme poverty.”

Uruguay has high levels of equality providing access to services such as healthcare, education and sanitation to the majority of its citizens. Approximately 60 percent of its population is middle class, and its governance structures have low levels of corruption and institutional instability. In 2016, the rate of remote poverty was 9.4 percent, and the rate of extreme poverty was 0.2 percent but although they have low poverty rates, hunger is still prevalent in the country.

In discussions of poverty and equality, food security and access to nutritional food is an important piece of the puzzle. Below are five facts about hunger in Uruguay.

  1. In 2017, Uruguay’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was less than five, down from 9.7 in 1992. The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators. The first is undernourishment, which is the share of the population who have an insufficient daily caloric intake. The second is child wasting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are underweight relative to their height. The third is child stunting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are short relative to their age. Lastly, child mortality, which is the mortality rate of children under five.
  2. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) has a presence fighting hunger in Uruguay. Their approach tackles hunger from several angles in order to address every facet and source of the problem. They have implemented policies to improve competitiveness in value chains, to improve land planning and natural resource management, to develop the fisheries sector, to increase health and food safety, to develop food security and family farming in rural areas and to increase cooperation among countries in the “South.”
  3. The depth of hunger is a measure of hunger in a country, it is the intensity of food deprivation based on the number of average kilocalories (per person, per day) consumed by citizens being below the desired level. In 2008, the depth of hunger in Uruguay was 140 kilocalories per day. While this is not ideal, it is relatively low, as it is below 200 kilocalories per day.
  4. Overall, the number of people who are undernourished in Uruguay is 200,000, which is approximately five percent of the total population. The prevalence of malnutrition is at 4.5 percent.
  5. There are other important indicators of hunger in Uruguay besides statistics that report solely about hunger and undernourishment/malnourishment. For example, the prevalence of anemia indicates overall nutrition. The prevalence of anemia among women between the ages of 15 and 49 is 17.4 percent and 23.6 percent among children. The percentage of children that are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life is also important. Just over 65 percent of infants in Uruguay are exclusively breastfed during that time period.

While organizations like the FAO maintain the belief that no person should lack access to food and adequate nutrition and so remain in Uruguay to fight hunger, Uruguay is still one of the leaders, in its region, for hunger and poverty rates.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in UruguayWithin the past few decades, Uruguay—a small country with a population of about 3 million—has managed to reduce its moderate poverty rate from 25.5 percent in 1989 to 12.4 percent in 2012, and the extreme poverty rate from 3.3 percent to 0.5 percent over the same period. Because of the great reduction of poverty in Uruguay, the nation’s Human Development Index ranking is ever increasing, and it is seeing longer life expectancy and greater birth rates.

However, despite improved conditions for citizens of Uruguay, there is still anxiety among community members due to a long embedded history of fluctuations in the economy and government that have contributed to poverty-like phases for many. The last 40 years have been illustrated by a slow-moving economy, one that is not quick to adapt to change, but with moments of remarkable growth. Uruguay is uniquely addressing its poverty issues, some with successful outcomes and others with less positive consequences. Here are three ways poverty in Uruguay is being tackled.

  1. Economy
    Uruguay has been relatively successful in ramping up economic development, which has seemed to keep up with globalization. Gross Domestic Product increases in the late 80s have been able to sustain Uruguay through some economic downturns in recent history. This, coupled with social reform, is keeping extreme poverty low.
  2. Social Integration
    Uruguay still experiences marginalization and social disintegration, but has taken initiatives in the last few decades to bring these issues to public view. It has been argued that education is a key element is bringing many different demographics of people together and enabling students and families to take charge of their lives. From the early 90s to the present, referendums have been drafted regarding education and social reform as well as being a topic for political platforms.
  3. The Work Force
    Women have become more of a present figure in the job market, having the highest rate of participation in labor in Latin America. While the amount of active workers is higher than it has ever been, Uruguay still has relatively high unemployment rates. However, the Uruguay legal system is working toward slimming the gap between wage discrimination and job security rights among its citizens.

While Uruguayans are working toward a more stable economy and social reforms, there is clearly still some way to go. But, despite slow moving and small-scale changes, Uruguay is a positive example of poverty reduction efforts and there is growing hope for change in the South American nation.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Uruguay
Prompted by the Syrian refugee crisis, many countries have implemented stricter immigration policies. However, some Latin American countries, specifically those with a higher proportion of Muslims or Syrians, responded to the refugee crisis with more sympathy. Uruguay is one such country. Nestled in between Brazil and Argentina, the territory of Uruguay is roughly the size of Washington state and is home to only 3.4 million individuals. Here are some essential facts about refugees in Uruguay:

  1. Uruguay was the first country in Latin America that showed a willingness to receive refugees.
  2. According to one political analyst, Uruguay’s economy will largely be unable to assimilate refugees into their workforce.
  3. Refugees publicly lamented the country’s limited economic opportunity.
  4. According to the most recent statistics, Uruguay accepted 117 immigrants up to September 2015.
  5. Refugees now appeal to other countries and even to the United Nations to help them leave the country.
  6. Some refugees tried leaving the country, but such efforts failed because most countries do not accept their Uruguay-issued documentation and the immigrants also lack their Syrian-issued passports.
  7. Amidst such social discord, public opinion toward Syrian refugees began to sour. Many citizens felt that the refugees in Uruguay are ungrateful.
  8. Due to such public backlash, President Vasquez temporarily suspended any further allocation of Syrian refugees.
  9. The country’s first group of Syrian refugees was to take Spanish classes to help them assimilate.
  10. Uruguay hoped that, with their initial open-door policy, they would have a type of contagion effect on surrounding countries.


The following information about refugees in Uruguay reveals that countries with already suffering economies are, in many cases, unfit to offer refuge to large numbers of displaced persons. Therefore, more prosperous nations ought to show Uruguay’s initial willingness to accept refugees.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr


In recent decades, Uruguay has taken strides to eliminate poverty and the prevalence of hunger. Only 3.3 percent of the country’s population was considered undernourished in 2016. Only 1.3 percent of children under the age of five experienced wasting conditions. The elimination of hunger in Uruguay can be attributed to both broad changes in infrastructure and the contributions of nonprofit organizations.

How Uruguay is Successfully Addressing Hunger

Uruguay succeeded in meeting the first U.N. Millennium Development Goal, known as the “Zero Hunger Challenge” in 2013. The country achieved this goal two years ahead of schedule.

The government’s success in its social policies against poverty has received international attention. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) especially praised the implementation of monthly income subsidies. Households classified as “vulnerable” receive a monthly income subsidy of 700 Uruguayan pesos. “Highly vulnerable” families receive twice that amount.

As an outcome, moderate poverty decreased from 32.5 percent in 2006 to 9.7 percent in 2015. Additionally, extreme poverty decreased from 2.5 percent to 0.3 percent in the same period.

Alongside broad government initiatives to eliminate poverty in general, a number of small-scale nonprofit organizations have arisen in recent years. Many share the goal of eliminating residual hunger in Uruguay.

Niños con Alas, or Children with Wings, works specifically to improve the infrastructure of Uruguayan schools. The organization provides schools with staple pantry products like flour, sugar, rice, cornmeal, tomato pulp, oil, noodles, milk powder and minced meat on a weekly basis. Through its contributions, Niños con Alas supplies three meals a day for more than 1,000 children.

Argentine national Santiago Abdala created Uruguay’s Banco de Alimentos, in 2012. Originally operating from Santiago’s home, the food bank now delivers food to more than 45 charities and helps feed more than 7,000 individuals. Banco de Alimentos is supported by the Global Food Banking Network and partnerships with international companies like Unilever.

Overall, the Uruguayan government and charitable nonprofit organizations have provided the people with options in terms of hunger. The defeat of hunger in Uruguay sets a good example for countries all over the world looking to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr