Facing Up to Inequality in Latin America.  Economic and Social Progress 1998 Report (Serial)

Facing Up to Inequality in Latin America. Economic and Social Progress 1998 Report (Serial)

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A window of opportunity has opened for Latin America. Thanks to its changing demographics, the region has a chance to accelerate its development and attack one of its greatest socioeconomic ills: inequality.

Fertility rates are falling and a large cohort of children is entering the workforce. With fewer children to care for and still relatively few old people to pay for, the present generation of Latin Americans is in a position to be a motor for economic growth and an agent for social change.

How long will this opportunity last? For the next two decades, most countries will enjoy a declining ratio of children to workers before a rising ratio of retired to active workers begins to represent a much heavier financial burden. This means 20 years toaccelerate the development process, put people to work, finance educational improvements and save for the future. If policies are enacted to further these goals, Latin America could open up its growth potential while it closes its income gap.

Economic growth and income redistribution are not new goals in Latin America. What is new is the demographic moment and the urgency to get the policies right or waste an historic opportunity. The 1998-1999 edition of Economic and Social Progress in Latin America examines the causes of inequality that has long plagued Latin America, understand its causes, and offer policies that will make a difference. In doing so, our research and findings speak to a number of audiences: to the institutions both within and outside the region whose priorities include promoting social development and reducing poverty; to Latin American governments, fearful of the political consequences of socioeconomic stratification; to the region's policymakers, ready to translate years of good intentions into measurable results; and to the millions of Latin Americans who are anxious to share in the region's development.