poverty in Santiago










Santiago, Chile is a magnetic city that draws many people in because of the city’s alluring cultural life. Chile’s industry is mostly congregated in the Greater Santiago region.

Cultural Importance in Santiago

The industries consist of textiles, shoes, clothes, food products, copper mining and metallurgy have made this region prosperous. As a result, there has been a rise of a growing financial district known for its stock exchange and banking.

Even though Santiago is often viewed as an industrial hub, many in this prosperous city are left with little and struggle to survive. To recognize the needs of Santiago, here are 10 key facts about poverty in Santiago.

10 Key Facts About Poverty in Santiago

  1. Poverty rates are on the rise. Recent studies have shown a rise in the city’s poverty levels. Although Santiago remains below the national poverty rate of 15.2 percent, poverty in Santiago increased by about 1 percent between 2007 and 2010. Poverty levels grew by 1.4 percent, while the gap between the rich and poor dropped by 5.1 percent.
  2. Low-income families receive healthcare. Primary healthcare centers provide an array of services and are an essential part of the healthcare network. Preventative services are incentivized and the populations are divided into sectors to have a regular source of care. However, PHCs do not have sufficient resources.
  3. Water is commodified. Millions of people are left without water and warning for several days. Privatization of water was established in 1981 under General Pinochet. Grievances with the commodification of water has been exacerbated by the growing loom of climate change and the ultimate disappearance of the glaciers.
  4. Health education is lacking. Health education is lacking and many of the city’s poorest residents develop preventable diseases as a result. Addison Williams, an aid volunteer, noted the inadequate health education and stated the resulting conditions present. Preventable diseases that often plague animals are common among the children that play on the street. The CDC reported that Chagas disease is a great risk for those living in “poor-quality housing.” Although no vaccines or drugs can prevent the infection, better housing conditions, bed nets, and residual-action insecticides are effective preventative measures.
  5. Government implemented ‘Operation Site’ to alleviate housing inequalities. The population of Santiago doubled between 1940 and 1960, resulting in a housing crisis. The Ministry of Housing was established in 1965, and soon began to implement ‘Operation Site,’ which offered land to the residents. The system did not have clear guidelines, nor clear initiatives. Some families were given a wooden house, while others were given electricity and running water but no house. Today, the consequences of ‘Operation Site’ remain unclear and debated. Opponents say that the poor were social segregated. However, the results have been largely beneficial for those living in the government-sponsored spots.
  6. The poorest families live in a campomento. A campomento, or shanty town, exists because of abrupt growth in urban areas. In the campomento, poverty in Santiago is evident and the city’s poorest residents have found a home. The communities are often surrounded by trash and homes are constructed from remaining wood and doors that had been disposed of prior. Roofs are fabricated by metal scrapped sheets found within the dumps. There are no floors. Instead the residents of the campomento use rugs to cover the dirt.
  7. Santiago’s rich and poor are divided. The wealthiest part of the city, northeastern Santiago, is a stark contrast to the poorest areas in the south and northwestern parts. Centers of culture are congregated at the center of the city. Shopping malls and new cultural buildings are being placed in already high-income parts of the city. In the south, where poverty in Santiago is evident, important buildings, like high schools, are being underdeveloped. Instead, these regions are known for landfills and jails. Luis Valenzuela, Universidad Católica’s Observatory of Cities executive director, believes that parks could be used as a tool to improve low-income areas.
  8. The average salary is $861. The industrial and financial center of Chile, Santiago generates 45 percent of the country’s GDP. Job prospects have been high, and the economy has seen growth; however, the average salary is just $861.
  9. Average education for Heads of Household is nine years. In some of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Santiago, such as Lo Espejo, only one out of five youths have access to higher education. Moreover, the average family’s head of household has only reached nine years of education. Many students do not place much of an importance on education; instead, many often turn to illegal activities. Andrew Ireland, worked for a semester in Centro Abierto Santa Adriana (CASA). The organization has sought to keep children enrolled in school. CASA has provided a place for community children to stay during the day when they were not at school. The organization has proven successful in offering a safe place to study and for the children to stay out of trouble.
  10. UNESCO Santiago attended an Assessment for Global Learning. A World Bank Symposium compiled an array of experts to develop tools and approaches to monitor learning. UNESCO Santiago was in attendance, a clear indication that change in Santiago’s education is necessary. The symposium dealt with various questions about measuring learning and how governments can utilize these tools.

Aid groups, such as the Chilean Red Cross have implemented tactics to improve healthcare in Santiago. They are trained to respond to epidemic controls, as well as promoting healthcare education and preventing diseases. Among the highest of the International Federation of Red Cross’s goals is fostering community empowerment.

– Stefanie Babb
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Chile
Chile is currently struggling with its finances and education system. A public charity called Hogar De Cristo conducted a survey concluding that 58 percent of Chileans found that a lack of opportunities and education were the leading causes of poverty in Chile.

This recognition has shown that poverty in Chile, as well as poverty in general, is multidimensional rather than solely related to a lack of money. In addition to those mentioned above, Chileans accredit their poverty to laziness, addictions, lack of state support, abandonment and disease.


Poverty in Chile: Facts and Figures


Poverty in Chile has a fairly low percentage of 14.4 percent, which is lower than the United States. However, Chile’s problem lies in the country’s high rates of income inequality: and this alone has driven around 10 percent of people into poverty.

The inequality also reverts back to the poor education systems. There are approximately 75,000 Chilean children who do not attend school. The number of uneducated closely correlates with those living in the deepest poverty.

At first glance, Chile’s economy appears stable. In fact, in 2011, Chile was even voted as the 44th country for highest human development rates by the United Nations. These rankings were achieved by collecting the national averages, meaning that this can hide the truth about the country’s inequality.

In truth, 75 percent of growth out of 8.4 percent went to the rich, and only 10 percent went to the poor. This information is not clear in reports about the nation. The world acknowledges Chile as a developed country, but only 20 percent have incomes matching those of a developed country. The rest, what is hidden, exposes the true extent of poverty in Chile.

The Chilean economy is reliant on copper prices. Chile’s GDP rises when prices go up, but this alone does not create jobs that lead to prosperity. The truth about poverty in Chile shows that the GDP growth does not always benefit the majority of people.

In order to reduce poverty in Chile, national and international education reform advocates suggest significantly increasing expenditures in education. The goal would be to produce quality institutions and in turn, reduce poverty. Some economists even suggest a change in tax rates, because the low tax rates are one main reason why inequality has not been reduced. By fixing the tax problems, Chile could solve issues like the poor education and poverty significantly.

Katelynn Kenworthy

Photo: Pixabay

In recent times, some of the largest economic growth in South America has occurred in a small and notoriously narrow country, the Republic of Chile. A standard-bearer of free-market capitalism, Chile’s rapid expansion over the past 35 years has been staggering. According to Forbes, “poverty has fallen from 50 percent to 11 percent, per-capita income has increased from 4.000 dollars to almost 20.000 dollars and inflation was reduced from over 250 percent per year to less than 7 percent per year.” Often referred to as the “The Miracle of Chile,” this development seemed to lift the country out of economic and political chaos and into remarkable prosperity.

In 1973, Chile was in dire straits. Its annual rate of inflation had reached 150 percent and its economy was spiraling downward. On top of this, the country experienced the bloodiest coup of 20th century South America in which the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet seized power from the Socialist president Salvador Allende. Over the course of just one month, over 3,000 Chileans lost their lives as military planes strafed and bombed the presidential palace. Ironically, this militaristic dictator became the source of the economic miracle.

General Pinochet promptly began to dismantle Allende’s socialist system and in its place instituted free-market economic policies. To enact these policies, Pinochet gathered together a collection of economists named the ‘The Chicago Group,’ as many members had studied at the University of Chicago. The group endorsed lower tax rates, the privatization of state companies, lower government spending and deregulation. But this growth came at a price to civil liberties and democratic values. In his 1980 constitution, Pinochet set the stage for Chile’s growth by prioritizing economic freedom at the cost of political oppression and social programs.

In 1990, Pinochet failed to retain his office after losing a public election and Chile steered back towards democracy. While his policies in the 1980s had brought the country out of financial failure and into economic prosperity, they left the poorest Chileans behind. Due to tax cuts and lackluster government spending, 45 percent of Chileans still lived in poverty. To the new Chilean government of the 1990s, the next big step was to confront poverty. Their solution was social spending.

Their plan was extraordinarily successful. Between the years of 1989 and 1997, the new Chilean government increased “health and education investments (mostly ignored under Pinochet) by 179.3 and 115 percent respectively,” according to a report from Brandeis University. This social spending helped to dramatically lower poverty; every percentage of growth Chile experienced between 1990 and 1996 counted 50 percent more to the reduction of poverty than under Pinochet’s regime. Ultimately, the poverty rate fell from 39 percent to 20 percent from 1990 to 2000. In comparison, poverty across South America only fell from 48 percent to 44 percent.

Of all social expenditures, education received the most attention and made the greatest impact. During the 1990s, spending on education grew at a rate of 10.6 percent annually and 274 percent cumulatively over the entire decade. The same Brandeis study mentioned above found that the increases in education spending were particularly effective in decreasing the severity of poverty in Chile.

However, Chile’s expansion, while exceptional, has not exactly been miraculous. According to the Brookings Institute, Chile has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. Unfortunately, Chile’s education system, particularly higher education, suffers from a similar form of stratification even though it has expanded by 33 percent in the past two decades. In terms of enrollment, 62 percent of Chileans from the upper 20th percentile in income attend institutions of higher education. By contrast, only 21 percent attend from the lower 20th percentile.

While Chile has developed rapidly, due in large part to social spending in education, it has left many of its poorest behind. With the current president Michelle Bachelet planning further tax increases to provide free education to all Chileans, it is possible that another miracle may be on the horizon.

– Andrew Logan

Sources: BBC, Bloomberg, Brandeis University, Brookings Institute, Forbes, IFPRI, MIT Poverty Action Lab, University of Hawaii
Photo: SnipView