If numbers do not lie, Mexico is in trouble. According to a new study by the Mexican Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL, from its acronym in Spanish), 53.5 million Mexicans were living under the poverty line in 2012, half a million more than in 2010. And not only that, but another 40 percent are in risk of crossing the line.
In spite of the increase in absolute figures, the percentage of people in poverty dropped from 46.1 percent in 2010, to 45.5 last year. That is due, explains the research, to a growth in population in Mexico from 114 million to 117 million.
Rosario Robles, Mexico's Secretary of Social Development, explained that the government's anti-poverty programs did not reach as much people as hoped. She admitted that specific policies are not enough -- the only way to sustainably fight poverty would be to implement economic reforms that will improve the economy in the country. “Mexico needs a compromise with reducing poverty, which calls for big changes,” she said.
Despite the disheartening report, there is a silver lining. While poverty increased, extreme poverty actually decreased, from 13 million in 2010 to 11.5 million people in 2012, which shows that policies like Bolsa Familia are actually working to some extent. “The report shows some advances and some hiccups. But the simple existence of social programs has not been enough to stop poverty,” said Luis Videgaray, secretary of the Ministry of Finance.
CONEVAL said that poverty decreased in the rural areas in bigger numbers than in the urban areas. Robles thinks the reason behind the unbalance is the situation of insecurity in many Mexican cities, which feeds off the economic problems. “Programs usually look to rural poverty, but we have realized that we also need to attend to urban poverty, since violence usually draws from it,” she said.
The report pointed at Chiapas, Guerrero and Puebla as the states with the highest levels of poverty, with up to half of the population in poverty, although there is no data to explain why. The capital state of Mexico Distrito Federal has the lowest percentage of poor people, with 30 percent.
CONEVAL defines poverty as a monthly income in urban zones of less than 2,114 pesos (about $180), and extreme poverty is below 978 pesos ($83).