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Social Panorama of Latin America 2006

image of Social Panorama of Latin America 2006

In the last four years, Latin America has turned in its best performance in twenty-five years in economic and social terms. Progress with poverty reduction, falling unemployment, improving income distribution in several countries and a strong upswing in numbers of jobs are the main factors underlying the positive trend in a number of the region's countries. The first two chapters of in this report look at the way the main social indicators have behaved in the last few years. The following two chapters address matters that, for different reasons, have come to figure prominently on government agendas.

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The relative poverty approach

Indicators of relative poverty, such as those commonly used in European countries, generate a different panorama for Latin America than that produced by the analysis of absolute poverty. Relative poverty rates range from 26% to 32%, i.e., below absolute poverty levels in nearly all the countries and quite similar everywhere. Moreover, with few exceptions, relative poverty has not changed much between 1990 and 2005. The lack of change is largely attributable to the rigidity of income distribution, on which the indicators used directly depend. Lastly, while these indicators are useful for outlining certain characteristics of living standards, they are insufficient to give a comprehensive view of poverty in Latin America.

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