By Aurelio Suárez Montoya, SEMANA, June 26, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

A comprehensive review of DANE[1] documents, most of them produced during the period of the pandemic, furnishes a pretty complete look at the social consequences it has caused, added to those that exist already, and which are getting worse with the protests that have detonated since April 28.

The first document is Social Pulse (April 2021). According to this document 30 percent of households eat only two meals a day, only one person in 20 is able to save any money, and 92 percent can’t even think about buying a home. In addition, the number of people who say they have a bad or very bad health condition has multiplied by five. That’s 15% of the whole population. The document adds that the principal official aid that the poor receive has been in kind, food and supplies.

Another document, related to monetary poverty in 2020, reveals the appalling fact that two out of every five people are in this condition, and if you add those classified as vulnerable, it becomes seven of every ten. That tragedy is accompanied by another one: extreme monetary poverty, attributed to 15 percent of the population, brings with it as a corollary, an increase in inequality to the level of the worst on the planet.

The reclassification of the social classes, prepared by the DANE at the close of 2020, reinforces the above. All of the classes, middle, vulnerable, and upper, went down to the next lower step by large percentages, and finally, there was an increase in the deep hole of the most precarious class. The situation is so dramatic that barely 860,000 people, out of 50 million, are in the upper class, and that is 1.7 percent of the elite, including those that have a very high individual monthly income of 3.5 million pesos, 900 dollars.

The basis for that is the loss of employment. It’s not just that half of people working are working in informal employment, but also that there are almost 4 million people unemployed, and of those, 3 million were already unemployed when the pandemic happened in the January to March quarter of 2020. To the accounting of the unemployed, we have to add the “inactives” who have decided not to apply for work. That is the voluntary unemployment.

With the young people, between 14 and 28 years old, we can see the weakness of the labor market more bluntly. While the general rate of unemployment is 14.2 percent, for them it’s 23.5%, and for women at that age it creeps up to 31.5%, with more than 900,000 of them unemployed, not counting other hundreds of thousands also characterized as “inactive”, forced to do housework.

The group of young unemployed, in the document entitled “Sociodemographic Panorama of Youth in Colombia”, the aggregate known as “nini”, who neither work nor study, gets more weight. It’s one third of the total of 10,990,268 in the youth cohort. And nearly six out of every ten “ninis” are women.

The evaluation is one of a social cataclysm of poverty and sickness, increasing inequality, and a population that lacks sufficient income to reactivate the country with demand, and millions without a viable future. If inflation were to begin and increase, and add to the picture just described, and to income per person, which decreased in amounts equal to those in 2013 and parked around 6,400 dollars between 2016 and 2019, the misery indexes would also increase, in which Colombia hovers around the first 15 places.

The ill-advised and insufficient assistance from the government contributed to the breakdown in the pandemic. The funds coming from the Fund For the Mitigation of Emergencies (FOME), in all of the social programs for seven million beneficiaries, heads of houses or individuals, do not amount to USD $1.50 per day; and the payroll supports, the PAEF[2] program, to support 40 percent of the monthly payroll at minimum wage covered, in the long term, at most 1.4 million jobs per month, while there is a work force of 11 million formal jobs, 7 million of which are working in small or medium-sized businesses.

According to the Treasury Ministry, the implementation of FOME in 12 months was 67.4 percent, 27.3 billion pesos (roughly USD$7,300,000), less than 3 percent of GDP, which does not stand out among emerging countries, and in South America, it’s less than Chile, Perú, Bolivia, and Brazil. (IMF – April 2021).

At the peak of their nonchalance, Duque and Carrasquilla threw the lighted match of tax reform into this tinderbox, and it was Troy! The worst is that, going the wrong way, Congress and the administration are legislating and executing in the opposite direction from what the streets are demanding. To those who want solutions, I’m ahead of you: the vaccine for the ruinous social pandemic that is overwhelming us is not Duque’s. He’s in 51st place among the 53 countries studied for their management of the coronavirus (Bloomberg), let alone that of the malodorous congressional stable that Char presides over.

[1] DANE is Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics.

[2] PAEF. Project for the Support of Formal Employment.

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