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Situation of poverty in the country

© UNICEF Bolivia/2003
Poverty forces young children and adolescents to work

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Poverty, which restricts the exercise of human rights, affects population groups in different ways, according to gender and ethnic origin. Poverty and inequity also give citizenship a limited and precarious status.

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Poverty affects the quality of life of the majority of the population, and restricts the right to enjoy and exercise the human rights of those affected.

All human beings have the right to aspire to satisfy their basic requirements. To be poor not only signifies incapacity to cover basic necessities, but also exclusion from the opportunity of developing one's capacities to fulfill a productive and creative role in society, as well as having limited possibilities to make one's own claims heard.

Numbers speak out

According to the 2002 Poverty Map with information from the Census of 2001, 59 per cent of the population of over 8,274,325 inhabitants live in conditions of poverty and 24,4 per cent live in conditions of extreme poverty. However, many specialists maintain that these figures should be much higher as income and work are not considered when making this calculation.

On the other hand, according to the latest Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (PNUD 2002), Bolivia ranks as the 104th of a total of 174 countries in human development. The country has a fifth position amongst the lowest ranking countries in the region. The Human Development Index is composed of three variables: life expectancy at birth, educational achivement and the real Gross National Product per capita (expressed in Parity of Acquisitive Capacity).

Short term perspectives are not very favourable. From 1998 to 2002 the per capita GNP fell from USD 1,071 to USD 883 (INE, 2002). With almost no productive investment, diminishing internal demand, lack of confidence, uncertainty, increasing lack of prestige of the political parties and lack of credibility of the political system, conditions do not exist for economic reactivation in the short term.

Unequal poverty

Poverty affects human population groups in varying ways, according to gender and ethnic origin. Indigenous and rural inhabitants and, amongst these, children, adolescents and women, are the groups most affected by poverty and exclusion. They are the most vulnerable.
A projection made taking data from the last National Population Census (2001) into account could infer that at present there are 2,500,000 children aged under 18 and 2,600,000 women, of which girls and adolescents are the most vulnerable group living in conditions of poverty.

Gaps also exist between the different regions of the country and between urban and rural areas. The departments with the highest poverty rate are Potosi, Chuquisaca and Pando, while Santa Cruz and Tarija present the lowest rates. According to data from the Political and Economic Analysis Unit (UDAPE), in 2002 the percentage of the population living below the poverty line was 81.99 per cent in rural areas and 53.94 per cent in urban areas.

Rural poverty is related to conditions which determine low agricultural productivity, the lack of infrastructure and access to markets. In urban areas, poverty is related to low quality employment and reduced income levels.

Limited citizenship

In Bolivia the working of society and of the economy result in inequity. The principal social problem in the country is inequality in the distribution of income and of benefits.

The lack of equity implies limited and precarious citizenship.If it is impossible for rights to be recognised through action, or if they cannot materialize, then they become formally recognized but void of content. It makes no sense to a poor person to have a right to own property if he does not have any property, or the right to vote if his vote does not help to change his situation.

Social citizenship cannot be built in the absence of equal opportunities to accede to benefits. On the contrary, the satisfaction of basic necessities has enormous individual and social potencial for production, in the measure in which it increases people's capacity to satisfy their own necessities and contribute to the country's economic growth.




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