Citizen Voices: Challenges of Poverty

Poverty Challenges

Peter Xavier Gonzalez


Citizen Initiative for the Promotion
of the Culture of Dialogue AC

The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Policy (CONEVAL), through the recent publication of the Poverty Measurement report, made clear the magnitude of what is perhaps the country’s main challenge: paying off the historical debt with half of Mexicans living in conditions of poverty and extreme poverty. The challenge is clear and defines a complex agenda in terms of social programs, economic policy and legislative reforms, mainly in the field of social security.

But once the challenge has been raised, its causes should be clearly established. From the outset, it should be noted that the independent variable in relation to the phenomenon of poverty is, without a doubt, the performance of the economy. Depending on their good or bad design and implementation, social policies and programs (such as the National Crusade Against Hunger) can contribute to attenuating the phenomenon and alleviating some of its most critical manifestations. However, in the absence of high and sustained economic growth, they are ineffective in attacking the structural causes of poverty.

In this regard, it seems appropriate to bring up some figures. In 1992, 53% of the population was poor. Four years later and as a result of the 1994-95 crisis (the most severe suffered by the country in modern times), this percentage increased 16 points: 69% of the population was below the poverty line. As of that year and thanks to a quick exit from the crisis (favored by the entry into force of NAFTA), the situation began to improve and this improvement was a constant during the following ten years. Thus, the percentage of Mexicans living in poverty fell to 43% in 2006. The absence of crisis and macroeconomic stability allowed the targeted social programs (Progresa and Oportunidades) to bear fruit. However, as of 2006, the percentage of poor Mexicans grows again.

Indeed, in 2010, as a result of the severe crisis suffered by the country in previous years (derived, firstly, from the rise in international food prices and, later, from the outbreak of the economic-financial crisis) the poverty reached levels similar to those observed before 2006: 46.1%; in such a way that the modest but sustained trajectory of poverty reduction was reversed. During the years of 2011 and 2012, the Mexican economy began a relative recovery and achieved growth rates above the world and regional average. However, this recovery has not been sufficient and the country has not yet recovered the level it reached before the outbreak of the crisis. In keeping with it,

Certainly, the National Household Income-Expenditure Survey, 2012 (ENIGH), released by INEGI two weeks ago, shows a slight improvement in average household income (1.5%) between 2010 and 2012. No However, said income level (38,125 pesos) continues to be below the prevailing average income before the crisis (42,865 pesos in 2008).

Thus, it is not surprising that, in terms of poverty, the situation is similar, as illustrated by the recent CONEVAL report, prepared from the information provided by the ENIGH. From said report it is worth highlighting the following results:
The percentage of the population affected by poverty fell by 0.6% and stood at 45.5%.
In extreme poverty there was a drop of 1.5 million, going from 13 million people to 11.5 million, and it was 9.8%.
The number of people with income below the welfare line reached 60.6 million in 2012, which represents an increase of one million compared to 2010.
Deficiencies due to educational backwardness decreased in percentage and number of people (it fell from 20.7% of the population to 19.2%); by quality and housing spaces (a drop from 15.2% to 13.6%). As well as the lack of access to basic services in the home (it fell from 22.9% to 21.2%), and access to food (it fell from 24.8% to 23.3%).
There was a significant increase, also in percentage and number of people, in the deprivation due to access to social security and the inhabitants with an income below the well-being line and with an income below the minimum well-being line. The number of Mexicans without access to social security went from 69.6 million to 71.8 million.
Urban poverty went from 35.6 to 36.6 million Mexicans, while rural poverty fell from 17.2 to 16.7 million people. The population under 18 years of age is the most affected by poverty in our country, with 53.8% of the total; They are followed by older adults, with 45.8%.

Based on these indicators, it is possible to infer that, in parallel to the positive effect of certain government strategies in reducing deficiencies in health, education, and housing, income-related deficiencies and lack of access to social security remain influencing decisively on the magnitude of the phenomenon of poverty. Likewise, the increasingly urban nature of the phenomenon and the way in which it affects the young population (with few opportunities to access formal employment) and the elderly (the vast majority of whom are marginalized from any form of social security) are striking.

Social programs can be improved and, in particular, redouble efforts to reduce the number of Mexicans who suffer from some type of deprivation. All in all, the best strategy to significantly reduce the number of poor people consists of acting on two fronts:
On the one hand, a far-reaching fiscal reform that provides the necessary resources to build a universal social security system that grants to all Mexicans, regardless of their employment status, access to health services and retirement pensions.
On the other hand, ensure that, beyond their palliative effects, social programs and, in particular, the National Crusade Against Hunger, promote the acquisition of productive skills and attitudes that allow beneficiaries to overcome their condition of dependency and take charge of your own well-being.

And all this without forgetting that the necessary background for both access to social security and social programs to really contribute to reducing the problem of poverty is the sustained growth of the economy, that is, the increase in productivity and the creation of well-paid employment and income opportunities.

Voces Ciudadanas was born in 2011 as an information
and analysis service on the public agenda that seeks:

1. Placing the citizen voice in the public space.
2. Encourage participation and agreement.
3. Strengthen the social and civil fabric.
4. Propose solutions to public affairs from a civic perspective.