Can tax systems in Latin America reverse the extent of social inequality so evident in more than a few countries in the region? Is the situation of Latin American women in the labor market improving? Is there equity in the distribution of wealth in this part of the world?
In more than a few countries on the subcontinent, tax systems benefit economic and political elites. The report "Taxes for inclusive growth" published in March of 2016 by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Oxfam International (an international organization conducting humanitarian projects in 90 countries), reveals that, in comparison to tax systems in Europe, those of Latin American countries are less effective in redistribution of wealth and the reduction of inequality.
This disparity has as a consequence an overwhelming tax burden for citizens with medium and low incomes, while ruling classes contribute much less than what they should rightfully pay.
Despite the fact that, in the 1990's and the first decades of this millennium, governments were elected which implemented policies to address inequities, analysts today insist that the region is still characterized by extreme inequality.
It is noteworthy that, in 2014, the richest 10% of the region's population held 71% of the wealth. Oxfam estimates indicate that, within six years, the richest 1% will possess more wealth that the other 99%.
Early this century, peoples south of the Río Bravo experienced the arrival of left-leaning, progressive governments, and important strategic alliances were established designed to mutually benefit of all countries involved. Then the right mounted a comeback and a marked retreat in social policies ensued.
The gap in terms of unequal access to education is made clear when statistics reveal that the poorest 20% of the population has a average of 5.5 years of schooling, while the 20% richest average 12 years.
And, according to Oxfam data, poor children in Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia have a probability of dying, during their first year of life, two to five times greater than children in the 20% richest within the population.
Areas like health care and education are very illustrative when considering this issue, but there are others. To cite one example, differences between the sexes in the labor market are evident.
There are still more women living in poverty than men, and, although women are on average better educated, they earn 22% less than their male counterparts.
Between 1990 and 2014, noted was a significant increase in the number of women in the workforce, reaching 20%. Statistics presented during the international seminar "The future of social policies in Latin America" in Havana indicated that percentage of women with their own sources of income fell 16% during this time span, 30% in rural areas, among women of all ages.
The greatest burden of daily work continues to fall on women's shoulders. Studies indicate that women in Guatemala devote more than seven hours a day to work that is not compensated, which creates obstacles to their participation in the paid workforce.
Moreover, all women do not benefit in the same way from policies meant to address inequality, within countries of the region. Those with higher levels of education tend to use child care services and request maternity leaves from their jobs, while the less-educated depend on social security.
The political panorama in Latin America today is not the same as that of ten years ago. Policies to reduce poverty and inequality must be prioritized on public agendas. If not, the numbers will continue to reveal a widening gap between a impoverished majority and a rich, indifferent minority.