An Even Playing Field for Children in Peru

March 6, 2012

  • 54 percent of rural residents and 19 percent of urban resident in Peru live in poverty
  • Among Latin American countries, Peru ranks 6th in timely graduation from primary school, but 15th in access to electricity
  • New ministry set up to address social and inclusion issues in Peru

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2012 – A more equitable allocation of government resources is needed to close the opportunity gap between Peruvian children, participants at a February 2012 event in Puno, Peru, agreed.

The event, which included officials from the Peruvian government, the World Bank and Peru’s National University of the Altiplano, also featured the release of a new book focusing on the issue of opportunities for Peru’s 10 million-plus children.

The book’s title translates into English as Is There an Even Playing Field for Children in Peru? Measuring and Understanding the Evolution of Opportunities. It was published by the World Bank and Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo, a Lima research organization.

With the help of regional data from the World Bank’s Human Opportunity Index, the publication shows that access to critical areas such as health, education, information and basic infrastructure has improved for Peruvian children in the past decade.

However, the data also indicates that although access to such services should be universal, this is still far from the case.

“All boys and girls in Peru, regardless of where they were born, their parents’ educational level, the color of their skin, or the language of their family, should have the same opportunities – at least when it comes to access to basic health, safe water, sanitation, nutrition; and good, basic education,” noted Carolina Trivelli, Peru’s minister of development and social inclusion.

“This objective requires equitable, efficient and effective allocation of limited public services,” she told participants at the Puno event.

Peru ranks sixth in Latin America for timely graduation from primary school, but 14th for access to potable water, 10th in sanitation, and 15th in electricity, the Human Opportunity Index shows.

Jaime Saavedra, director of the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Equity unit, noted that “more alarmingly,” access is closely linked to where the children live and their parents’ socioeconomic level.

“In a country that seeks to give all citizens the same options for a full and productive life, these circumstances should not be a condition for access to basic opportunities,” Saavedra said.

" All boys and girls in Peru, regardless of where they were born, their parents’ educational level, the color of their skin, or the language of their family, should have the same opportunities. "

A comparison of local regions in Latin America shows that children who live in rural mountain areas and forests are less likely to have electricity, potable water or sanitation at home.

To address such geographical disparities, Peru created a new cabinet-level national agency responsible for social policy and inclusion, Ministerio de la Inclusión Social, in 2011 and appointed Trivelli to lead it. The agency is expected to design policies that help bridge gaps and help vulnerable populations tap into opportunities generated by economic growth.

A central element of the new policies will be to develop tools for monitoring and evaluation to determine whether the country is moving in the right direction.

“If we don’t know where we are and we don’t spell out clearly where we’re going, any road may seem good and that is not what this country’s children need,” said Juan Pablo Silva, Peru’s deputy minister of policy and social evaluation.

He also noted that the task of improving results must not be limited to increasing the national averages, but that it must also narrow gaps between the nation’s households.

Trivelli’s agency announced a plan called Conocer Para Incluir (Know to Include) in Puno as this is the region with the highest concentration of households in need of social inclusion.

“Reforms should not begin in Lima,” Silva said, “but where the problems are.”