Demographic Responses to Economic Adjustment in Latin America

By G. Tapinos; A. Mason et al. | Go to book overview

1 Economic Adjustment and Demographic Responses in Latin America: An Overview

REYNALDO BAJRAJ, JORGE BRAVO, AND GEORGES TAPINOS


Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of economic adjustment in Latin America over the last decade and to review the still sparse but growing evidence relating to the demographic responses associated with such changes. First, we present the economic background to the analyses of the demographic fluctuations, which are examined in the second part of the chapter.

We use the general term 'adjustment' despite the fact that economic crises and adjustment policies are closely interrelated and that it is very difficult or even impossible to disentangle one from the other. Besides, although macroeconomic stabilization efforts can be distinguished conceptually from the more structural changes and reforms1, in practice both types of intervention have been undertaken simultaneously during the last decade in the Latin American region. In the 1960s and 1970s, many stabilization programmes were implemented in Latin America and the Caribbean, usually connected with loans provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Many of these met with only partial success, and then only for short periods of time. Complaints began to be voiced that structural conditions impeded the success of conventional stabilization policies. The most common argument was that it was difficult or impossible to change the behaviour of the public sector regarding its current deficit, unless its relative size in the economy was changed and its functions were redefined. In the 1980s this vision broadened, generalized, and emerged in the operations. The IMF began to require the approval of structural adjustment programmes, usually financed by the World Bank, in order to carry out the short-term stabilization operations.

The ease and extent with which this initiative spread in the 1980s was due in part to the prolongation and severity of the crisis in that decade. We will take a brief look at this crisis by drawing a very broad outline of it, and by describing the adjustment of the external and internal gaps that preceded and followed it. Then, we shall consider their apparent effects on demographic variables, based on the evidence available.

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1
Short-term stabilization policies aim at the restoration of some financial equilibrium, while structural reforms are oriented towards the transformation of certain basic relations in the economy on a medium- to long-term basis.

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