By Anthony Harrup / Wall Street Journal
Mexico’s government lost the battle of the headlines when a state agency reported that the number of poor people in the country increased by two million between 2012 and 2014, even though some measures of economic adversity eased.
While economists saw low economic growth and lagging wages behind the increase in the number of poor, critics attributed the results to a failure in government programs aimed at tackling one of the country’s biggest problems, where the top 10 percent of the population enjoys 35 percent of the income and the bottom 10 percent just 1.9 percent.
Coneval, the government agency that evaluates the performance of social development policies, said last week there were 55.3 million poor people in 2014, two million more than in 2012. The ranks of the poor amounted to 46.2 percent of the population, up from 45.5 percent two years before.
While income fell, deficiencies in education, health, social security and housing were down last year from 2012, although insufficiency rose in access to nutrition – such as people having to switch to cheaper foods, or in extreme cases miss meals.
“In Mexico poverty affects those who work. It’s not just the unemployed that fall into poverty, as happens in developed countries. In our country, income from labor is insufficient to be above the poverty line,” said the nongovernment organization Acción Cuidadana Frente a la Pobreza, or Citizen Action Against Poverty.
“Mexico isn’t poor, but most of its population is, and this needs to change,” he said.