Disability and poverty in Mexico is a significant issue throughout the nation. Unfortunately, some work to address disability and poverty in Mexico stagnated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, political unrest and gang violence threatened progress. However, the work of the Mexican government and social programs are fighting to provide rights and assistance for the disabled.

According to the World Bank, in 2018, an estimated 41.9% of the Mexican population lived at or below the poverty line. Additionally, those living with disabilities made up 7.5% of the population. The majority of those disabled have either a mobile or visual disability. In fact, cognitive and speech disabilities make up 16.13% and 4.87% of the disabled population respectively.

Government Action for the Disabled

The Mexican government led the promotion of disability rights in its region for decades. In 2011, Mexico implemented into law the  General Law for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities (LGPID). This law promotes, protects and guarantees human rights to persons with disabilities and full inclusion into society and equal opportunities.

In addition, the government designated a section in its job portal to helping find jobs for those living with disabilities. And as of 2011, 47.2% of the disabled population have employment while 11.3% live in poverty.

Educational Wins for the Disabled

Mexico’s education system requires that all teachers receive training to work with special needs and disabled students. Two programs known as Unidades de Servicios de Apoyo a la Educacion Regular (USAER) and Centros de Atencion Multiple (CAM) service disabled and special needs students. As of 2011, 2,400 students under CAM and 3,700 under USAER serve approximately 28,000 schools throughout Mexico.

CAM focuses on students whose disabilities require them to have to leave the classroom. USAER focuses on students whose disabilities are not severe enough for them to not be able to attend school. For example, one school in Cozumel provides a physical therapist, a social worker and a psychologist to work with the children and their parents.

Solutions to Fight Poverty

The fight against disability and poverty in Mexico reduced as economic activity slowed down due to the global pandemic. Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was at 3.44% in January 2019. However, in January 2021, the unemployment rate grew to 4.47%. Unemployment hit rural areas the hardest. As a result, residents of the less developed south often received low productivity and low investments.

To counterbalance the effects of the pandemic, the Mexican government offered advance payments, old-age social pensions and an increase in microcredit loans. The government also halted spending except for priority social programs and major infrastructure projects.

Social programs like CONTIGO and Oportunidades are working to provide financial services to those in poverty. CONTIGO provides financial products to communities that lack access to formal banks. Additionally, the program offers loans and repayment plans to those in poverty and helps customers in financial management. Financial advisors then meet with customers each week to provide support with loan management and repayment plans.

Oportunidades works under the same framework of CONTIGO. It was responsible for reducing around a third of all poverty reduction efforts. The program’s success increased school enrollment rates, nutritional health and health prevention. The program delivers cash directly to families encouraging beneficiaries to send their children to school and the health clinic. Thus alleviating the worry to cover food costs and allows them to make financial investments into a better financial future.

The Future

The work continues in the fight against disability and poverty in Mexico. There is daily progress for disability and poverty in Mexico. Additionally, the Mexican government is making investments into policies and programs. Hopefully, these programs will ensure that all Mexican citizens receive fair treatment and have every opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Mexico
Childhood is a time for growth, development and play; however, in countries like Mexico, countless boys and girls are deprived of what makes them children. Poverty in Mexico has forced many children to abandon play and begin employment. Child labor in Mexico is an issue that the country struggles to overcome, and these 10 facts about child labor in Mexico present the reasons the country has yet to defeat this phenomenon.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Mexico

1. The high rate of child labor in Mexico is due to large amounts of poverty across the country. As of 2016, 43.6 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. This means that nearly half of the population is experiencing significant financial burdens, which often result in a lack of food, adequate living conditions and educational opportunities. With almost half of the population of Mexico experiencing this high rate of poverty, it is no surprise that Mexico has the highest rate of poverty in all of North America.

2. Around 3.6 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 in Mexico are employed. Of this, nearly 870,000 are under the age of 13.

3. In Latin America 50 percent of all employed children live in Mexico. Latin America is spread across 33 countries and home to 626 million people. While Mexico is not the largest country in population or size in Latin America, it has the highest number of employed children.

4. Mexico’s Federal Labor Law prohibits children who are under the age of 14 to work. Furthermore, children under the age of 16 may not participate in what they call “unhealthy or hazardous work.” This type of work is defined as anything that may be detrimental to the child’s health, including work with various chemicals and industrial night labor. This law is in place in order to ensure the physical and mental health of children, along with safeguarding proper development.

5. In Mexico, the Department of Labor is responsible for protecting workers’ rights, including monitoring child labor; however, the enforcement of child labor laws is minimal and ineffective in smaller companies, agricultural work and construction. Yet, it is in these areas that the majority of child labor in Mexico takes place.

6. Under Mexican law, children under 16 are not allowed to work more than six hours per day. Despite this law, almost 97 percent of children work more than 35 hours per week, which is well above the legal six hours per day.

7. Children often drop out of school in order to help provide financially for their families. If they do not drop out of school, many children must work on top of attending school to help their families survive. The older the child is, the more this phenomenon occurs. For instance, by the age of 17, one-third of Mexicans are working. For families experiencing extreme poverty in Mexico, education is just another financial burden and is second to earning a salary and making a contribution.

8. More children who live in the north and in the countryside are employed, compared with their counterparts in the city and in the south. For example, 12 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 13 are employed in the southern states like Guerrero, whereas merely 1.4 percent of those children are working in the north, in states like Chihuahua.

9. Employed children in Mexico often work in difficult conditions that put their health at risk. Child labor in Mexico often revolves around children working with and carrying heavy materials, such as wood and cement. Further, children are often fieldworkers and servants.

10. Fortunately, the rate of child labor in Mexico has been slowly decreasing due to programs like Oportunidades. This Mexican anti-poverty program is working on decreasing child labor in Mexico by providing families with educational grants. With these grants, more children will be able to stay in school instead of working. The Oportunidades program has helped more than four million families and counting.

Child labor in Mexico continues to be an ongoing problem that the country faces. Still, with each new generation, statistics change and circumstances improve. With the help of anti-poverty programs, newer generations of Mexicans are realizing the importance of education and a fulfilling childhood. Lowering poverty in Mexico will not only lessen the amount of child labor, but also save the childhoods of boys and girls who deserve more than just a salary.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

Almost half of the population in Mexico lives in poverty. Based on the current population of 117 million, over 55 million people live in poverty. Forty-one million people live on less than $188 per month and 11.5 million live on less than $83 per month. It is estimated that more than half of the entire population is living on less than $2 per day and a quarter of the population is living on less than $1 per day. From 2012-2013, the GDP in Mexico dropped from four percent to one percent.

In Mexico, 25.3 million people are without access to proper health care, and 27.4 million people do not have proper access to food and are described as being food insecure. Food insecure is a term that is used in Mexico to describe those who face extreme hunger and are unable to meet their own nutritional needs during the year. Despite a decrease in extreme poverty since 2010, poverty has continued to increase.

Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and has a population of two million people. It is a city that struggles with disease and poverty. The wealth in Mexico City is concentrated. Although some of the poor live in the cities, many reside in the rural areas. The rural areas house the majority of the impoverished; however, there is little recorded data to demonstrate the cause, according to the government. Although the government is aware of the poverty that exist in these areas, the states of Mexico that border the United States do not qualify for the Oportunidades program to alleviate poverty and health issues.

Health issues in Mexico City are caused by poor air quality as a result of air pollution. Air pollution causes respiratory problems for the residents. Mexico has declining incidence rates of Tuberculosis. However, in Mexico City, the cases of Tuberculosis are five times as much as the United States. For the people of Mexico City, Hepatitis A is still considered endemic.

The first Millennium Goal initiatives are applicable to the status quo of Mexico City. With little aid from the government, Mexico City will have to look to outside sources for relief.

– Erika Wright

Sources: CDC, U.S. Mission to Mexico 1, U.S. Mission to Mexico 2, U.S. Department of State, The World Bank
Photo: Hispanically Speaking News

This July, Coneval, the Mexican government social development agency, reported that while the national poverty rate declined a measly .6 percent, an increase in the population meant a half million increase in the number of people living at or below the poverty line. The report revealed that 45.5 percent of Mexico’s citizens live in poverty. Coneval defines poverty as living on 2,329 pesos, the equivalent of $183, per month in the city and 1,490 pesos, or $117, in rural areas. It defines extreme poverty in the city at $88 per month and $62 per month in rural settings. As of 2012, almost 10 percent of the population of Mexico lives in extreme poverty, totaling 11.5 million people.

After the Coneval data was published, Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said, “The only feasible, permanent answer to reducing poverty in Mexico is through economic growth.”

President Enrique Peña Nieto echoed a similar sentiment, promising plans for modernizing existing assistance programs and creating new programs. While Mexico’s current government assistance program Oportunidades has been internationally recognized for its success, the program mainly offers monetary support and lacks focus in policies concerning income growth.

The National Bureau of Economic Research found suggestive evidence of a connection between globalization and poverty in Mexico. Because the country was so aggressive when they opened their economy completely in 1985, Mexico’s GDP has almost tripled. In 1980, five years before tariffs were cut and other trade restrictions removed, eleven percent of the GDP was from international trade. In 2002, it reached 32 percent.

A majority of Mexico’s poorest states are in the southern region of the country. The four poorest in the nation are Chiapas with 74 percent of its population living in poverty, Guerrero at 69 percent, Puebla at 64 percent and Oaxaca at 61 percent. All four states sit well above the national poverty percentage of 45.5 percent. In Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero, 50 percent of the population lives on $62 or less a month.

Rural areas in Mexico are the areas that see the least amount of economic growth and development. This is also where 61 percent of the indigenous population lives in extreme poverty. Oportunidades focuses 99 percent of its services on rural or semi-urban areas. They are currently assisting 6.5 million families in a number of ways. Most benefits come in the form of cash deposits for the people who qualify for the program. A section of the program called Youth with Oportunidades gives economic incentives to students who graduate high school before they turn 22 years old. Because women head eight of every ten single-parent household in Mexico, Oportunidades also gives cash transfers to help pay for high-quality food for children.

The assistance that Oportunidades is offering those living in poverty benefits lives in the short run, but the global community hopes it will be a launching pad for greater economic growth in Mexico.

– Jordan Bradley

Sources: The Latin Times, World Bank, The National Bureau of Economic Research, Rural Poverty Portal, Mexidata Reuters
Photo: Allison Orthner