Inequality and social policy in Latin America

A new analytical framework

Authored by: Peter Lloyd-Sherlock

The Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415682923
eBook ISBN: 9780203084229
Adobe ISBN: 9781136190230


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Across Latin America, overall state spending on social policies compares favourably to countries with similar levels of wealth located in other regions. A recent survey reported that social spending in Latin America accounted for 13 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004, compared to 9 per cent in the Middle East/North Africa and 8 per cent in the emerging Asian economies (Clements et al., 2007). Despite Latin America’s general adherence to neo-liberal policy frameworks, official data show social spending as a share of GDP increased significantly over the past 15 years (ECLAC, 2007a). This large and resilient social expenditure reflects Latin America’s historical legacy as a region with high levels of state intervention in social welfare, roughly in accordance with Esping-Andersen’s social democratic welfare regime. It also reflects the relative strength of civil society organisations, particularly trade unions, in the region, which have been able to resist some aspects of neo-liberal restructuring.

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