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Poverty in Guatemala

Updated on September 20, 2011

Unequal distribution of wealth is one of the leading causes of poverty in the world. Guatemala I no exception to this it has one of the highest poverty rates in all of Central America. Its GDP is also one of the highest with its domestic production wealth going only to a handful of political elites. Guatemala has more then seventy five percent of its national population living at or below the poverty line and this is most severe for rural and indigenous populations.

Its distribution of wealth is unusual in the world the wealthiest in Guatemala are the top ten percent owning nearly fifty percent of the nation’s wealth and the poorest ten percent owning less than 1%. This includes industrial, retail, farming, and land.

The population of Guatemala is over twelve million, half of the population is under 18 and more then half of that age group live in squalor. The high level of poverty in the country can be attributed to a number of reasons one is the lack of social programs and the demand for cheap labor which results in children being taken advantage of. But, sometimes the children need to work if it means they are the sole support for their family. Guatemala has also one of the highest percentages of street children discarded like trash by their families since there is no means to support them.

With extreme poverty there also comes consequences, one of which is the low life expectancy age in the country. Guatemala ranks as one of the worst with the average age of 65 and a 40 out of every 100 births do not survive past a few weeks. The government only spends a small amount of money in social programs such as health care which result in the poor health of a lot of Guatemalan families. The poor do not have easy access to good health care as facilities are focused in the metropolitan areas. Then with the use of pesticides, the low availability of drinking water and waste disposal services in rural areas there has also raised the occurrence of health problems.

Another drawback to the poverty crises in Guatemala is that among Guatemala’s children it is very high. Most children under 5 in this country are mal nourished more so in the rural areas but it effects the over all mortality rate whether it is in the city or rural areas. Malnutrition mirrors the geographic and ethnic patterns of poverty, being higher among rural children than urban (51% vs. 32%). The poor are highly dependent on agriculture, some 87 percent, as small scale subsistence farmers or agricultural day laborers. Non Spanish speakers also face lower incomes

The government must also focus on another issue the lack of proper education for the populous. Education is not a great priority for poor Guatemalans as children are needed to work to contribute to the family income. Only 44 percent of school age children attend classes and only 55.6 percent of the total population is literate. Child labor significantly inhibits the ability to attend school.

This will continue until there is a step in by the government or wealthy individuals to help the cause. There are so many things ready to be discovered and introduced by Guatemala but there is a lack of basic life infrastructure that still needs to be met. The people of Guatemala must learn to sustain themselves with basic education micro business anything to keep alive which will grow as their efforts are far from futile. So next time you’re in Guatemala try and pass something along that you know they will use.

If you would like to learn more about Guatemalas History, Traditions, Culture, News, and expat living come and visit my website at


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