Poverty October 17, 2016 | 12:24 pm

Lat-Am needs to improve access to opportunities to win poverty fight

Washington, October 17, 2016 – In order towin the fight against poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, children needto have better access to basic opportunities, according to new World Bank datareleased today to mark the International Day of the Eradication of Poverty.

From 2000 to 2014, extreme poverty (peopleliving under US$2.5 a day) in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) came downfrom 25.5 percent to 10.8 percent, but the reduction since 2012 has taken placeat a much slower pace as a result of the economic slowdown. At the same time,inequality went down marginally although it still remains high. In addition,the region made significant gains in expanding access to opportunities,especially to basic services, such as electricity and school enrolment.However, continued progress is being overshadowed by the current economicslowdown, which has already stopped the expansion of the middle class.

“For the region to continue with the greatsocial transformation it embarked upon since the turn of the century, we need toensure that every child is given a fair chance to fulfill his or her truepotential,” said Jorge Familiar, World Bank Vice President for Latin Americaand the Caribbean. “In the context of economic slowdown, it is even moreimportant to improve opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds,such as access to a good education.”

The World Bank’s 2016 Human Opportunity Index(HOI): Seeking Opportunities for All, measures how equitably children, age 16and under, have access to services needed for a productive life such aseducation, water and sanitation, electricity and internet. While the analysisshows important gains in access to electricity and school enrollment – over 90percent coverage — the region still lags in access to running water, sanitationand internet.

“Unequal access to essential services canhinder the development and well-being of children, which ultimately limitstheir productivity in adult life and affects the region’s potential to boostgrowth and further reduce poverty in the long term,” said Oscar Calvo-Gonzalez,author of the report and World Bank Practice Manager for Poverty and Equity inLatin America and the Caribbean. “Unfortunately, having parents with loweducation and income, as well as living in rural areas, remain importantbarriers for access to opportunities and economic mobility from one generationto the next.”

Argentina and Brazil have the highest HOIscores in education, while Mexico is among the highest in access toelectricity. Uruguay is the most advanced on sanitation; the Andean Region andCentral America have made significant progress on mobile connectivity.

Other key findings include:

Between 2000 and 2014, the region has madesignificant progress in expanding access to services: The HOI of school attendancein Latin America and the Caribbean is high, with an average of 94 percent, andis also similar to its coverage rate, which indicates access is more equal.Data also shows that the region faces more challenges in achieving equalopportunity to access proper sanitation and piped water, compared to completingprimary education. Across the region, cellphone access soared from 13 percentin 2000 to over 90 percent in 2014. Yet, despite rapid progress in internetcoverage, the HOI for internet access remains low, below 50 for every countryin the region.

If the region sustains its performance inexpanding access to services, most of these will likely reach universalcoverage by 2030: Growing rates for access to internet, water and sanitation inLAC exceed the needed growth rate to achieve universal coverage in the next 15years. However, progress varies greatly across countries.

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