Demographic Responses to Economic Adjustment in Latin America

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

lesser extent, the metropolitan region of Santiago. At the same time, the extreme regions have gained population and have experienced the largest positive in-migration flows. The association between the two is not casual: per capita public expenditure emerges as one of the most consistent attraction factors of interregional migration, in both bivariate and multivariate analyses ( Chang and Garrido 1989). On the other hand, intraregional inequality has been lessened to some extent by a reorientation of resources toward basic education and primary health care ( Raczynski 1986), mirroring the focalization of certain social programmes at the national level.


Summary and Conclusion

Although adjustment in Chile can be judged as successful in terms of some basic macro-indicators, the burden of the external adjustment during the last two decades was supported internally by a prolonged pressure on the labour market, leading to increasing inequality, instability, depressed real wages, and high open unemployment rates. The costs of adjustment during the 1980s were high, exceeding the requirements for closing the gap between aggregate income and expenditures and for accommoding the needed external transfers. Social expenditures, instead of being compensatory, in general behaved in a pro-cyclical fashion, and remained below the real per capita levels that prevailed at the beginning of the 1970s and throughout most of the adjustment period.

The repercussions on demographic variables have been most noticeable regarding nuptiality and fertility. Marriages tend to react contemporaneously with--and sometimes even in anticipation of--economic changes, but no important long-term effects on celibacy are detected. The fluctuations in births are mainly due to variations in first to third order births, since higher order births show a smooth declining trend during the last two decades. Health conditions, as represented by nutrition, morbidity, and mortality statistics have been less affected by the aggregate economic fluctuations and adjustment, partly due to the existence of nutritional programmes for children, and the focalization of governmental policies regarding mother and child health care. On the other hand, infant mortality and deaths due to specific causes have been negatively affected in the short term during some periods of economic setback, specially the crises episodes that occurred during the more recent 'adjustment' period. As regards internal migration and spatial distribution, fragmentary evidence suggests that short-term movements associated with seasonal and other temporary phenomena may have been facilitated by the improved overall communications, which was stimulated in part by the growth of nontraditional exports starting around the 1980s. There are some potentially important longer- term consequences of structural adjustment reforms, such as changes in the social security system, and the privatization of health and education, which have not been analysed here.

The Chilean experience suggests that the heavy costs of unemployment and increasing inequality could have been lessened, both at the level of macro-stabilization

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