Low Living Standards Persist for Caribbeans and Latin Americans Women Take Jobs at Expense of Home Life

By Amy Kaslow, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 1990 | Go to article overview

Low Living Standards Persist for Caribbeans and Latin Americans Women Take Jobs at Expense of Home Life


Amy Kaslow, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


LATIN American and Caribbean women have borne the brunt of the region's past 10 years of economic decline, known as the "lost decade," according to a report released today by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

More women have augmented their domestic roles by entering the work force, but this comes at a time of increased poverty in the region, notes the report entitled "Economic and Social Progress in Latin America." Today, 39 percent of households in Latin America and the Caribbean are below the poverty line, lacking the minimum daily standard of nutrition. The figure was 33 percent a decade ago.

Huge external debts have forced governments to impose economic austerity measures which hit both the homemaker and the worker hard. Certain subsidies of food and consumer goods have been ended, income levels have fallen, and social services have been reduced.

"There was not much room for adjustment with a human face in this picture of overall economic stagnation," says the report. The average annual growth rate for the region during the 1980s was 1.1 percent.

Latin families, especially the poor, are increasingly reliant upon women for primary financial support. According to IDB estimates, the female work force of 40 million is concentrated in low-paying, low-productivity jobs. That number is expected to reach 53 million by the year 2000.

Women working in agriculture contribute 40 percent of the region's supply of food, says Nohra Rey de Marulanda, manager of the IDB's Economic and Social Development Department. This growing participation has markedly improved nutrition.

Further, states the IDB report, "20 to 35 percent of the rural households have escaped poverty because of income levels from female family members."

The number of females in the informal work sector is also on the rise. This sector is outside the purview of state taxation as well as state-sponsored services. Capital and credit are rarely available for such enterprises, ranging from manufacturing to transportation. The informally employed are largely people who cannot find work in the formal sector due to lack of education, training, and collateral. …

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