Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and despite the emergency social protection measures that countries have adopted to stop it, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reported today that in 2020 in Latin America poverty and extreme poverty reached levels that have not been observed in the last 12 and 20 years.
The annual report Social Panorama of Latin America 2020, indicates that the pandemic erupts in a complex economic, social and political scenario: low growth, increased poverty and growing social tensions. In addition, it exposes the structural inequalities that characterize Latin American societies and the high levels of informality and lack of social protection, as well as the unjust sexual division of labour and social organization of care, which threatens the full exercise of rights and autonomy of women.
The document indicates that the gaps between population groups persist: poverty is greater in rural areas, among girls, boys and adolescents; indigenous and Afro-descendants; and in the population with lower educational levels. It adds that the increase in poverty and extreme poverty levels would be even greater without the measures implemented by governments to transfer emergency income to households.
The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the large structural gaps in the region and, at present, there is a time of high uncertainty in which neither the form nor the speed of the exit from the crisis have yet been delineated. There is no doubt that the costs of inequality have become unsustainable and that it is necessary to rebuild with equality and sustainability, aiming at the creation of a true welfare state, a long-overdue task in the region.
For this reason, from FELATRABS we urge governments to guarantee universal social protection as the central pillar of the welfare state. In the short term, it is necessary to implement or continue the emergency transfers proposed: Emergency Basic Income (IBE), bonus against hunger and IBE for women; while in the medium and long term, progress should be made towards a universal basic income, prioritizing families with children and adolescents and invest in universal, comprehensive and sustainable social protection systems, increasing their coverage, as a central component of a new Welfare state.
Also, it is time to move towards new social and fiscal pacts for equality in times of pandemic, and to guarantee health, education and digital inclusion, so that no one is left behind.
The report also warns of the strong impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the labour market. The regional unemployment rate stood at 10.7% at the end of 2020, which represents an increase of 2.6 percentage points compared to the value registered in 2019 (8.1%). It adds that the generalized fall in employment and the departure of the workforce has affected women, informal workers, youth and migrants with greater intensity.
The outlook is complex and worrying, the short-term prospects are discouraging, since the Pandemic is far from disappearing. That is why it is pertinent to increase spending on Health and Social Programs that promote the creation of registered employment to reactivate the economy to a perspective of equality and sustainable development.
Arturo Fabián Quiñoa, Secretary General FELATRABS