Much of Latin America saw progress in lifting people out of poverty over the last decade. Yet a significant number of those people remain vulnerable to falling back into poverty according to a new report from the United Nations Development Program:
In the report titled Multidimensional Progress: Well-being beyond income, UNDP expresses particular concern over the 25 to 30 million people in the region—more than a third of those who left poverty since 2003 — who risk falling back into poverty. Many are youth and women, with precarious employment in the service sector. They are part of a larger group of over 220 million people (38% of the population, or almost two in every five in the region) who are vulnerable: officially they are not poor (living on less than US$4/day) but have been unable to rise to the middle class (living on more than $10/day).
The factors that pushed people out of poverty are different from those that prevent them from falling back, the HDR stresses. In the past decade, labour markets and education were the biggest engines behind exiting poverty. However, the report argues that it is essential that a new generation of public policies strengthen the four factors that prevent setbacks: social protection, care systems (particularly for children and older persons), physical and financial assets (such as owning a car, a home, savings or bank accounts that act as ‘cushions’ when crisis hit), and labour skills. These four key elements comprise what the regional HDR brands as a ‘resilience basket’, enabling people to absorb shocks and prevent setbacks. This is especially important during economic slowdowns.These risks are quite evident in El Salvador. While there has been a reduction in extreme poverty in recent years, the middle class has not grown. The expanding sector of society is that income band where families are just one setback away from returning to poverty.