Social Panorama of Latin America

1684-1425 (online)
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Social Panorama of Latin America presents official measurements for the analysis of income poverty from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and seeks fresh approaches to poverty and well-being, placing special emphasis on multidimensional approaches.
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Social Panorama of Latin America 2016

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01 Dec 2017
9789210586009 (PDF)

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The central theme of this edition of Social Panorama of Latin America is social inequality, seen as a fundamental challenge and obstacle to sustainable development. Some of the axes and aspects of social inequality are addressed, drawing attention to how they intersect with and reinforce one another. The different chapters will examine inequalities in the distribution of income (personal and functional) and property; inequalities over the course of the life cycle; time-use inequalities between men and women; and the situation of Afrodescendent populations as an example of ethnic and racial inequalities. Recent trends in the amount of public resources available to finance social policies capable of tackling poverty and inequality and of promoting inclusive social development are also analysed.

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  • Summary

    While concerns about equality have been a historically constant element in the thinking of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), they have moved to the fore since 2010, as established and explained in the set of documents known as the equality trilogy (ECLAC, 2010, 2012 and 2014a), and in 2016 were expanded with the analysis of the main challenges that the region faces in accomplishing the Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Significantly reducing inequality is a commitment assumed by all the countries of the region (reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 10 of the 2030 Agenda, to “reduce inequality within and among countries”), and is clearly expressed in the commitment “to leave no one behind”.

  • Inequality in Latin America: A key challenge for sustainable development

    Inequality is a historical and structural characteristic of Latin American and Caribbean societies that has been maintained and perpetuated even at times of growth and economic prosperity. In recent years, inequality in the distribution of income and in other areas has fallen (ECLAC, 2016a and 2016d) in a political context in which the region’s governments have placed a high priority on social development goals and actively promoted redistributive and inclusive policies. In spite of that progress, high levels of inequality still exist, conspiring against development and posing a considerable barrier to the eradication of poverty, the expansion of citizenship, the exercise of rights and democratic governance. Significantly reducing inequality is a commitment set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has been assumed by all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and is clearly expressed in the commitment “to leave no one behind”.

  • Social spending: Trends and challenges in policy financing

    In 2016, low growth in the global economy (2.2%) for the eighth year in a row, global trade volume growth that was even lower and a moderate decline in commodity prices formed the backdrop to economic and social policymaking in the region’s countries. The region’s economies face major headwinds in these circumstances, as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) argued in its recent Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean, and after recording negative growth in the aggregate in 2016 (estimated at -1.1%), they are expected to recover only modestly (1.1%) in 2017 (ECLAC, 2016b). The impact of this performance on the labour market has included a deterioration in the quality and quantity of jobs (urban unemployment in 2016 is estimated at 9%), especially in the South American countries. As analysed in other chapters of this edition of the Social Panorama of Latin America, high levels of inequality persist in the region.

  • The social inequality matrix: Age as an axis of social inequalities

    Social inequality is a phenomenon with multiple causes and an array of manifestations that go well beyond the matter of income and its distribution. ECLAC has recently stressed the importance of identifying and analysing the axes of social inequality that are present in areas of great importance for economic and social inclusion relating to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, such as access to education, health services, sanitation, housing, care, income, opportunities for decent work, social protection and political participation, and that translate into major disparities in well-being and agency in people’s lives (ECLAC, 2016a). Bringing these inequalities to light makes it easier to identify the specific ways in which public policies can be used to overcome poverty reproduction mechanisms and bring equality closer.

  • Time distribution: A key element of the inequality analysis

    Humankind has always reflected on and attempted to measure time, which is generally defined as the duration of things that are subject to change, through various and very distinct disciplines such as physics, history, psychology, theology and literature. From the era of the ancient Greeks until now, philosophical notions of time have revolved mainly around two ideas: (i) physical time, as a natural and absolute element, and (ii) relative social time, as a subjective interpretation of human existence and the occurrence of various events. The first is a variable that represents an objective, observable, continuous, homogenous, measurable and independent exteriority, while the second is a social, subjective, heterogeneous construction that can occur simultaneously or discontinuously.

  • Peoples of African descent: Broadening the scope of inequality to make progress in guaranteeing their rights

    The existence of a large Afrodescendent population in the region has its origins in the slave trade that was plied across the Atlantic for nearly 400 years. In Latin American countries, persons of African descent remain disadvantaged by structural inequality and multiple forms of discrimination, a phenomenon that began in the colonial period and became entrenched during the creation of the nation States. Their resistance and struggle have made people of African descent political and social activists, as they strive to position their historical demands on international, regional and national agendas. One expression of this is the establishment by the United Nations of the International Decade for People of African Descent, spanning 2015-2024, with its three pillars of recognition, justice and development.

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