Social Policy in Latin American Countries in the Early 21st Century: Opportunities and Limits

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-10-112-120
L. D'yakova (,
Institute of Latin American Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 21/16, B. Ordynka Str., Moscow, 115035, Russian Federation

Abstract. In the first decades of the 21st century, Latin American countries made significant steps towards social development. The period of the “Golden Decade” (2003–2013) was particularly successful, marked by high rates of economic growth, which most states of the region used to implement targeted social policies aimed at reducing poverty and social inequality, increasing employment, improving effectiveness of social protection of the population, education and health systems. An important part of the strategy for overcoming poverty were the conditional cash transfer programs, which aimed to reduce not only poverty, but also social exclusion, and to achieve a higher level of social development through small but permanent changes. The main actor of change would not be the state, but an individual or a family. Despite the ambiguity of the results obtained, which did not always correspond to efforts spent by the state, the experience of conditional cash transfer programs has become a part of an intensive search by Latin American countries for their own path of social development, due to specifics of accumulated problems and availability of real opportunities to solve them. The article analyzes the overall results of the policy on modernization of the social sphere, considers problems and challenges of the new stage. The latter began in 2014 and coincided with a slowdown in economic growth and general dissatisfaction with outcomes of social projects that did not lead to a drastic reduction of social inequality. The author highlights the key directions of forming a social strategy at the present stage, including a multi-factor approach to overcoming poverty, programs for young people, elderly people, and the native Indian population. There are new challenges relatable to the growth of mass social expectations, public disillusionment with the State’s capabilities, and radical protest moods that increase the risks of political destabilization. The author comes to a conclusion that Latin American countries need to develop a new model of social policy aimed at radically overcoming social inequality, creating effective social elevators for young people from poor segments of society, and supporting a new middle class that has grown over the years of economic prosperity, but is vulnerable to the risks of a new economic crisis. Insufficient measures can reverse the process of social revival that has begun in the region.

Keywords: Latin America, social policy, poverty, inequality, conditional cash transfer programs, social expectations, protest moods


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For citation:
Dyakova L. Social Policy in Latin American Countries in the Early 21st Century: Opportunities and Limits. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 10, pp. 112-120.

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