Number of poor in Latin America to rise by 9 million this year, says UN report

ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena

19 November 2009 – Nine million more people in Latin America will fall into poverty this year due to the global economic crisis, bringing the total number of poor in the region to 189 million, or 34 per cent of the population, according to a United Nations report released today.

The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which produced the report, stated that the new estimates depart from the trend towards poverty reduction that was prevalent in the region thanks to greater economic growth, the expansion of social spending and better income distribution.

“We can’t say that all that was attained between 2002 and 2008 has been lost,” said ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, as she presented the report, Social Panorama of Latin America 2009.

“However, the rise in poverty calls us to action. We need to rethink social protection programmes with a long-term, strategic perspective and measures that make the most of human capital and protect the income of vulnerable families and groups,” she added.

ECLAC recommended, among other things, reforming social protection systems and adopting both urgent short-term measures as well as strategic long-term ones.

“In doing so, governments should avoid fiscal irresponsibility and rigid labour markets, increase taxes progressively, redistribute social spending and extend coverage of social services,” the Commission stated.

The Commission also noted that the projected increase in poverty for 2009 will impede efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the globally agreed targets to slash poverty, hunger and a host of other social ills, all by 2015.

At the same time, the impact of the current crisis on poverty in the region is not expected to be as great as with previous crises, such as the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, it pointed out.


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