As Mexico marks Child’s Day Tuesday, data shows that five in 10 children live in poverty in the country, while among Indigenous children, the rate goes up to eight in 10, according to a report by the National Council of Social Development Policy Evaluation (Coneval).
Using the most recent available data (2016) the report reveals that 52.3 percent of children over 11 years old live under the poverty line, out of which 9.7 percent live in extreme poverty. This means that 20.7 million children and teenagers (about a sixth of the country's total population) live in poverty in Mexico.
For Coneval, taking care of children is a priority because “there's a bigger chance that [poverty] becomes permanent and its consequences to be negative and irreversible.”
“The scenario is worst when it comes to indigenous children, whose poverty rate is near 80 percent (78.6 for children and 78.2 for teenagers). This reflects the disadvantages the indigenous population faces, particularly minors, to implement their rights,” says the report.
Even though access to basic education has increased in the last few years, the rate of young students dropping out of school also increased. The report shows that 4.8 percent of children in pre-school had to leave their studies due to economic reasons, while the rate rises to 26 percent among teenagers between 15 and 17 years old.
Difficult economic conditions often force children to leave school to work in order to support themselves or their families. According to the report, 2.5 million children and teenagers between five and 17 years old work, out of which 1.3 million are employed in dangerous activities, such as construction or industrial labor, night shifts, or other jobs in which they are in contact with chemicals or other hazardous material.
The report also takes into account if the child or teenager comes from a rural or urban environment, with the first having less favorable conditions for development. Regarding nutrition, 6.4 percent of children in rural areas are underweight, more than double the ones in urban environments. Also, 18.9 percent of minors living in rural areas show symptoms of chronic malnutrition, while children overall have a rate of 12.4 percent.
In order to tackle these issues, the report recommends developing “public policies focused on childhood and adolescence” that takes into account “the heterogeneous realities these population groups” live in and strive towards “equity to eliminate the barriers that deprive the little ones of a better future.”