Also available from the UNICEF Caribbean Area Office Working Paper Series
No.1:The Socio-Economic Prospects for the Anglophone Eastern Caribbean in the Short and Medium Term.
Dr. Neville Duncan.
No.2:“I Did Not Finish School, School Finished With Me.” Preparing Today’s Children For 21st Century
Life. Macharia Kamau and Fabio Sabatini.
No.3:Youth in Conflict with the Law. The Case of Grenada.
Legal Aid and Counselling Clinic.
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Text: Macharia Kamau and Fabio Sabatini
Design and Graphics:Judith Hinds
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The crossroad of economic, social and cultural transformation at which the Caribbean is situated demands that choices about the way forward be informed through open and consultative discourse. These Working Papers are part of UNICEF’s contribution to the making of these informed choices. The Papers are based on practical development experiences and problems that UNICEF and its partners confront while seeking to achieve the objectives and goals of UNICEF’s mission, and the development intentions of its collaborating partners.
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1.ECONOMIC GROWTH AND WIDENING SOCIAL GAPS
“State Parties recognise the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for
the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development..”
Article 27.1 - CRC (emphasis added).
Caribbean countries are extremely open small developing economies with limited population and market size, and therefore particularly susceptible to changes in global trends. Exports of goods and services from the subregion represent two-thirds of the GDP on average, while imports are equivalent to as much as 80 percent. A favourable world trade period for the Subregion (including a burgeoning tourist industry, and advantageous marketing arrangements for key agricultural exports), allowed the Caribbean, particularly the smaller island territories, to achieve high economic growth up until the late 1980s. This played a major role in sustaining investment in health and education, which resulted in improvements in people’s welfare, as testified by the substantial gains in child survival, life expectancy and education of the past three decades.
Unfortunately, contrary to the belief that GDP increase alone would eliminate poverty and other social ills, the subregion witnessed the paradoxical co-existence of expanding economies and worsening income distribution, with widening gaps between the rich and the poor. This is because, while the per capita income appears to be relatively high, it is characterised by skewed distribution. By the beginning of this decade, families at the top 10 per cent income bracket had improved their
absolute as well as relative wealth, and were earning between 15 and 20 times the incomes of the poorest 10 per cent (Green, 1995). This
growing disparity has been shown to have a strong correlation with the social disintegration that is emerging in many Caribbean communities.
In addition, changes in global
market and political conditions
have had a negative effect on the
regional economic climate. Since
the beginning of this decade,
increased competition stemming
from world trade adjustments, the
erosion of preferential market
access, the decline in official
capital flows from bilateral and
multi-lateral sources, and the
fluctuations of the regional tourist
industry, created adverse changes
in the terms of trade and global
demand for exports, while
generating rising interest rates on external debt.
As a result, during the 1990s, the region has been experiencing a general deceleration of economic performance, whereby GDP growth rates in
some smaller countries fell by almost half between 1990 and 1994.
This decline has also been attributed to inadequate domestic policy responses, including a sharp increase in external borrowing and expansionary monetary and fiscal policies to finance capital projects, and to enable Governments to maintain the noted high levels of social expenditure and public sector
employment. Table 1.
Poor Population, Percentage Today in the Caribbean, around 30 Selected Countries
Country % Poor per cent of the population live in
Antigua and Barbuda 12 poverty, (Table 1) that is 1.8 Barbados 8 million people who are not able Dominica 33
Grenada 20 to adequately satisfy their basic Guyana 43 human needs Jamaica 34 St. Kitts and Nevis 15
St. Lucia 25 The findings of the 1996 Survey of St. Vincent and the Grenadines 39 Living Conditions in St.Vincent Suriname 47 and the Grenadines (where it Trinidad and Tobago 21
REGIONAL AVERAGES was estimated that almost 40
Latin America and Caribbean 25 percent of the population lives East Asia and Pacific 11 below the poverty line), clearly Middle East and North Africa 33
Eastern Europe 7 pointed to the “feminization of
South Asia 49 poverty”, for there are far more Sub-Sahara Africa 48 female headed households among Source: World Bank, 1996 These estimates were arrived at using different methodologies and the poor; and to the fact that, on therefore cannot be used to compare country situations. The only average, there are many more figures that can be used for this purpose are those appearing at the rightmost side of the table children in these households (Graph 2). The St.Vincent and the
Grenadines Poverty Assessment
Study also demonstrated that women in the poorest 20 percent of household have the lowest participation in the labour force and are employed at the bottom end of the salary scale, and, therefore, they, and their children, face serious economic and human deprivation.
Likewise, the 1994 St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Force Study estimated that
over a third of the households headed by women had three or more dependent children under fifteen years of age, and in that year only about half of them were working in 1994.
This is also confirmed in Grenada where, despite the lack of specific data
on children in poverty, it is possible to infer that since approximately 45 percent of households are headed by women, 55 percent of whom are unemployed, there is a large number of children living below the poverty line.
Likewise, the 1994 St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Force Study estimated that over a
third of the households headed by women had three or more dependent children
under fifteen years of age, and in that year only about half of them were working
20/20 Vision for Social Investment - 7
This is also confirmed in Grenada where, despite the lack of specific data on children in poverty, it is possible to infer that since approximately 45 percent of
households are headed by women, 55 percent of whom are unemployed, there is
a large number of children living below the poverty line.
Overcrowding (two or more persons per
room) can also be used as a proxy
indicator of poverty and of conditions that
may expose the child to serious risks of
diseases, school failure, and sexual or
other forms of abuse. The 1991 Census
returns reveal that more than half the
population in Dominica (where the
Poverty Assessment Study estimates
27.6 percent of poor households) was
living in overcrowded homes.
The result of this economic downturn Femaleplus the failure to provide marketable Graph 3.
MaleYouth Unemployment by Sexskills to the young is that
Grenada, Percentage 1994Bothemployment generation has not kept