Rural Disconnection in Chile
Chile is a nation with immense biodiversity and culture and an example of economic growth in Latin America. Nevertheless, Chile finds itself with the glaring issue of over-centralization. The South American nation is one of the most centralized nations globally, leaving rural governments, businesses and people with significantly less access to funds, critical resources, educational opportunities and economic growth.

Centralization as a Barrier to Rural Progress

Chile finds itself as one of the most centralized countries in the world, where regional governments function in deconcentrated and decentralized municipalities. These municipalities rely significantly on the central government yet receive a fraction of their funding. Only 3% of Chile’s GDP, or 13% of the total public investment, was allocated to local government expenditure. These figures leave Chile as one of the countries with the lowest local public investment of all OECD nations. Local governments outside the nation’s capital are left short-staffed and underfunded, thus, fewer resources for rural Chileans.

Economic Concentration and Territorial Disparities

Rural disconnection in Chile also lives beyond the public sector. Chile ranks among the highest levels of territorial inequalities within the OECD. The nation ultimately reached the second-highest GDP concentration level in the OECD in 2013. A financial restriction has exacerbated such pronounced disparities. As it stands, Chile is the sole OECD country where local borrowing is illegal. Thus businesses, citizens and local municipalities are restricted from accessing prime financial resources. There is an immense consolidation of economic opportunities in Santiago, the nation’s capital. Santiago garnered a tremendous 69% of GDP growth and the majority of labor productivity advancements from 2000 to 2013.

Limited Rural Higher Education

Educational disparities are also prevalent in Chile due to its over-centralization, especially in higher education. In 2020, more than 70% of all higher education enrollments occurred in three regions, with 50% of the total enrollments in the metropolitan region where the capital resides. The lack of higher education outside of the most populated regions further propagates inequality, stagnates the possibility of growth and hordes the nation’s human capital. Human capital drives economic stability, employment and innovation. Rural disconnection in Chile has led to a concentration of half of the individuals with the highest human capital and job opportunities in one region.

Rural Poverty

The majority of the regions of Chile are overlooked and lack opportunities, access and investment. Rural disconnection in Chile has led to noteworthy levels of child poverty. The 2020 National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey (CASEN) saw a pandemic-induced economic downturn. The year 2020 witnessed a 1.7 increase in percentage points for children and adolescents living in poverty, where rural residents were one of the four most vulnerable groups, with 18.1%. Those living in rural areas have less access to critical means for economic improvement and are thus exposed to harsher pitfalls in times of crisis.

Fundación 99

While Chile’s rural population finds itself in a state of vulnerability with its lack of investment and access to essential services, there are organizations passionate about reducing these deficits. Fundación 99 is an NGO determined to tackle social inequalities in order to achieve long-lasting social progress. The organization fights to help people in need with gender equity, inclusion and community participation as the guiding principles. The foundation intervenes in three key areas: education, public spaces and infrastructure and local economic development.

Fundación 99 has been channeling a lot of its efforts into empowering rural education in Chile for the last five years. The organization implements strategies that look for sustainable impact after their intervention is finalized. Two ongoing projects are communities of learning and educational bridges. These endeavors strive to foster enriching educational experiences for underdeveloped communities. Communities of learning look to create academic-minded communities where education is not limited to the classroom. Educational bridges equip educators with contemporary practices and innovative teaching techniques, encouraging strong student involvement. Their commitment to these communities is pursuing a society where development and opportunity are available to all.

Rural disconnection in Chile leaves countless individuals with unequal availability of funds, critical resources and educational opportunities. The human capital of rural Chile limits the potential of numerous people and deprives the country of reaching its maximum level of development potential. However, with strides such as those carried out by Fundación 99, lasting and genuine progress is being pursued.

– Agustín Pino
Photo: Flickr