Unequal Human Opportunities

Wide gaps in access to basic services and opportunities remains significant in Latin America and the Caribbean, despite some advances in recent years, a trend that is limiting equal opportunities for young people, according to the World Bank´s Human Opportunity Index 2010.

The index measured how personal circumstances, such as birthplace, family income, ethnicity and gender impact the probability of children´s access to basic services, including education, health care and electricity, that help them access opportunities later in life.

Its report “What opportunities do our children have? Report on human opportunity in Latin America and the Caribbean 2010,” presented in May, found gaps not only in the access to these services but also their quality. The study noted that while a child may attend school, that does not guarantee that they will have a strong education.

Despite some advances over the past 10 years, Latin American governments have not significantly diminished inequality in their countries.

Latin America and the Caribbean “remains the most unequal region in the world,” said the study. “The result has been acrimonious political disagreement over the proper role of the state: should it redistribute wealth or protect private property? Where there is no disagreement, however, is over the need to give all Latin Americans the same opportunities, as a matter of social justice or as a call to personal effort.”

In its second year, the Human Opportunities Index showed that “behind the enormous inequality that characterizes the region´s distribution of development outcomes (income, land ownership and educational attainment, among others), there is an even more worrying inequality of development opportunities.”

“It is not only rewards that are unequal; it is also chances,” said the report. “The problem is not just about equality; it is about equity too. The playing field is uneven from the start.”




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