Latin America Needs to Improve Access to Opportunities to Win Poverty Fight

October 17, 2016

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2016 – In order to win the fight against poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, children need to have better access to basic opportunities, according to new World Bank data released today to mark the International Day of the Eradication of Poverty.

From 2000 to 2014, extreme poverty (people living under US$2.5 a day) in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) came down from 25.5 percent to 10.8 percent, but the reduction since 2012 has taken place at a much slower pace as a result of the economic slowdown. At the same time, inequality went down marginally although it still remains high. In addition, the region made significant gains in expanding access to opportunities, especially to basic services, such as electricity and school enrolment. However, continued progress is being overshadowed by the current economic slowdown, which has already stopped the expansion of the middle class.

“For the region to continue with the great social transformation it embarked upon since the turn of the century, we need to ensure that every child is given a fair chance to fulfil his or her true potential,” said Jorge Familiar, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean. “In the context of economic slowdown, it is even more important to improve opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as access to a good education.”

The World Bank’s 2016 Human Opportunity Index (HOI): Seeking Opportunities for All, measures how equitably children, age 16 and under, have access to services needed for a productive life such as education, water and sanitation, electricity and internet. While the analysis shows important gains in access to electricity and school enrollment – over 90 percent coverage -- the region still lags in access to running water, sanitation and internet.

“Unequal access to essential services can hinder the development and well-being of children, which ultimately limits their productivity in adult life and affects the region’s potential to boost growth and further reduce poverty in the long term,” said Oscar Calvo-Gonzalez, author of the report and World Bank Practice Manager for Poverty and Equity in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Unfortunately, having parents with low education and income, as well as living in rural areas, remain important barriers for access to opportunities and economic mobility from one generation to the next.”

Argentina and Brazil have the highest HOI scores in education, while Mexico is among the highest in access to electricity. Uruguay is the most advanced on sanitation; the Andean Region and Central America have made significant progress on mobile connectivity.

Other key findings include:

  • Between 2000 and 2014, the region has made significant progress in expanding access to services: The HOI of school attendance in Latin America and the Caribbean is high, with an average of 94 percent, and is also similar to its coverage rate, which indicates access is more equal. Data also shows that the region faces more challenges in achieving equal opportunity to access proper sanitation and piped water, compared to completing primary education. Across the region, cellphone access soared from 13 percent in 2000 to over 90 percent in 2014. Yet, despite rapid progress in internet coverage, the HOI for internet access remains low, below 50 for every country in the region.  
  • If the region sustains its performance in expanding access to services, most of these will likely reach universal coverage by 2030: Growing rates for access to internet, water and sanitation in LAC exceed the needed growth rate to achieve universal coverage in the next 15 years. However, progress varies greatly across countries.


For more information: We invite you to participate in a Facebook Live Banco Mundial on October 17 at 12PM Washington D.C. time, with our expert on poverty, Oscar Calvo, Practice Manager for Poverty and Equity in Latin America and the Caribbean. Please send your questions directly on FB Live or via Twitter using the hashtag #OportunidadEs.

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