Nearly 30 percent of the population in Latin America is living in poverty, according to a report released Thursday by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
The report entitled "The Social Panorama of Latin America 2013, " presented at the United Nations agency's headquarters in Santiago, Chile, said the number of Latin Americans living in poverty in 2013 climbed to around 164 million, or 27.9 percent of the population.
"Although there has been a decline in poverty and extreme poverty rates in the region in 2012 (falling 1.4 and 0.3 percentage points, respectively, compared to the year before), the pace of that decrease has slowed sharply after a decade of progress," the ECLAC warned.
"Since 2002, poverty in Latin America has fallen 15.7 percentage points and extreme poverty 8 points, but recent figures show a slowdown," ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena said.
"The only acceptable number of people living in poverty is zero, which is why we call on countries to carry out structural economic changes to achieve sustained growth with greater equality," she added.
Of the 164 million people living in poverty, 68 million, or 11. 5 percent, are in conditions of extreme poverty, a 0.2 percentage point increase over 2012. The ECLAC blamed that increase on rising food costs that outpace general inflation.
Six of 11 Latin American countries with available data cut poverty, as their 2012 figures showed in comparison with 2011.
The six are Venezuela, which leads the list with a 5.6-percent reduction, and Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Colombia.
In Mexico, poverty rose slightly in 2012, to 37.1 percent from 36.3 percent a year earlier, while poverty remained steady in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic.Regarding income distribution, high inequality still defines the region compared to other parts of the world.
On average, the poorest one-fifth of the population (20 percent of households with the lowest incomes) gets just 5 percent of a country's total income, while the share of the wealthiest one- fifth is 47 percent on average, with that percentage going from 35 percent in Uruguay to 55 percent in Brazil.
The report points out that social spending showed accelerated growth in the second half of the 2000s, and that the affiliation of employees to health and pension schemes has grown in the region. Nevertheless, it's still very low and relatively stagnant in some countries, and the lower the average affiliation rate, the more income is concentrated.