Demographic Responses to Economic Adjustment in Latin America

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

7 Demographic Consequences of Economic Adjustment in Chile

JORGE BRAVO


Introduction

Chile's relatively small population, of some 13 million at around 1990, has somewhat slightly better aggregate economic and social indicators than the average of the Latin American countries. Its per capita GDP in 1990, nearly US$ 2,600,1 was the fourth largest in the region, and similar to that of Argentina and Mexico. The service sector currently accounts for approximately 60 per cent of the total economic activity, and agriculture for less than 10 per cent. Copper is still a major component of total exports, but the very rapid growth of nontraditional exports since 1984 has reduced to some extent the reliance on mining production as a source of foreign exchange. Well below 10 per cent of the adult population is illiterate, and the country is, together with Argentina, Uruguay, and Venezuela, among the four most highly urbanized in the region. Inequality, however, is no less severe than in Latin America generally: the proportion of the population living in conditions of poverty in 1990 was about 35 per cent (higher than in Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela), and income distribution became more regressive over the 1970s and 1980s. Demographic indicators display some of the same 'dual' behaviour: moderately low aggregate rates (annual population growth of 1.6 per cent; a TFR of 2.7 children per woman, an infant mortality rate of 17 per one thousand births, life expectancy of 72 years), but significant socio-economic differentials in all of these.

Chile's macroeconomic adjustment process during the last two decades has been widely reviewed, discussed, praised, and criticised by national and foreign scholars, policy makers, and multilateral lending agencies. Detailed studies of this period are found, for example, in Arellano ( 1988), Corboet al. ( 1986), Edwards ( 1986), Foxley ( 1986), Ffrench-Davis and Raczynski ( 1987), Ffrench-Davis and Muñoz ( 1990), Meller ( 1990, 1991), and Ritter ( 1990), among others. I will draw heavily from these studies for all discussion on adjustment generally. Like most other countries in the region, Chile has experienced marked macroeconomic swings during the last two decades, associated in part with the international oil crisis in the early

I would like to thank Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, Francisco León, Andrew Mason, and participants at the Ouro Preto Seminar for helpful comments on an earlier draft.

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1
Figure at 1980 prices. Source: CEPAL estimates.

-156-

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