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2020 Edition of ECLAC’s Statistical Yearbook Offers a Set of Statistics on Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

The latest version of this flagship publication by the United Nations regional commission presents a selection of indicators and statistics on the social, economic and environmental situation of the region’s countries.

24 March 2021|Press Release

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released today the Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean 2020, which is accessible online and presents a statistical overview that describes the social, economic and environmental development of the region’s countries, based on the information available as of December 2020.

This annual publication contributes to generating knowledge about Latin America and the Caribbean and, therefore, constitutes an essential reference for those seeking comparable descriptive statistical data between countries.

The Statistical Yearbook 2020 is organized into three chapters. In the first one, demographic and social aspects are explored, including indicators on population, work, education, health, housing and basic services, poverty and income distribution, and gender. According to this data, the population of Latin America and the Caribbean totaled 654 million inhabitants as of 2020, with an annual growth rate of 0.8%.

In recent years, poverty and extreme poverty have exhibited an upward trend, even before the social costs of the COVID-19 pandemic came about. In 2019, poverty in Latin America affected 30.5% of the population, or 187 million people, including 70 million who lived in extreme poverty (11.3% of the population). Compared with 2018, these figures represented an increase of 0.7 percentage points in poverty, and 0.9 points in extreme poverty.

Using recent information, the report illustrates the diverse inequalities that predominate in the region. While the wealthiest decile has a 35.6% share of total income, the poorest decile has no more than 2%. Nearly half of urban employed persons continue performing jobs that are low in productivity and require few skills. The labor participation rate of women in the active population is nearly 27 percentage points below that of men. The percentage of young people from 15 to 24 years of age who neither attend educational centers nor participate in the labor market is below 10% among men but exceeds 25% among women, mainly because they take on unpaid domestic and care work.

The second chapter presents economic information referring to national accounts, balance of payments, foreign trade and price indices, among other indicators. The Yearbook shows that the low, 0.1% growth registered in regional GDP in 2019 prompted a decline in the average GDP per inhabitant, which amounted to $8,361 dollars. Differences between subregions continue to prevail: in 2019, the Caribbean was 23.2% above the level of GDP per inhabitant recorded in the subregion of Latin America. ECLAC’s projections for 2020 point to a 7.7% drop in GDP in the region, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the current account balance marked a smaller deficit in 2019, which amounted to a shortfall of $96.295 billion dollars, equivalent to 1.8% of regional GDP.

With regard to intraregional trade, in 2019 intraregional exports accounted for 12.6% of total exports, while intraregional imports represented 13.5% of all imports. Meanwhile, the terms of trade index in the region (using 2010 as its base year) rose a slight 0.7% for Latin America in 2019 as compared with the level in 2018.

In addition, in 2019, consumer prices registered an increase of 430.6% for Latin America and the Caribbean, with this figure highly affected by inflation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. If that country’s data is excluded, the regional percentage change stands at 7.2%. With regard to this figure’s composition, the biggest contributor is the price of food-related goods, which rose by 8.6% (without taking into account Venezuela’s figure).

The third chapter offers environmental statistics and indicators from the region. These include metrics on physical conditions; land cover; ecosystems; biodiversity; environmental quality; land; energy, water and biological resources; emissions; disasters; human settlements; and environmental regulation and governance.

As occurs every five years, in 2020 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published updated statistics on the region’s forest areas. These are critical figures for the region considering the important role that forests play, not only as providers of sustenance and livelihoods for populations settled in forest areas, but also as the repository of the planet’s largest terrestrial biodiversity and as a key element for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In the last 30 years, Latin America and the Caribbean has seen its forest area shrink, and in particular it has lost natural forests, both in absolute terms as well as relative to overall land area. Between 1990 and 2020, the proportion of the region’s forest cover systematically declined, from 53% to 46% of the territory (from 1.07 billion to 932 million hectares). In this period, the area covered by forest that was lost throughout the region totaled 138 million hectares, which is equivalent to slightly more than Peru’s surface area. This trend of shrinking regional forest area is due mainly to the declines occurring in the countries with the biggest forest cover. Brazil accounts for 53.3% of all forests in the region, and in the last 30 years, it has lost 92.3 million hectares of forest.

The Statistical Yearbook is published in a print and electronic version, with some differences between them. In the print version, there is a selection of tables and graphs aimed at providing a summary of the statistical information from a regional perspective. The electronic version, meanwhile, includes a larger quantity of tables that provide more detailed information and refer to a much broader historical period; it also contains an additional chapter explaining methodological aspects and specifying references to the data sources.

This year’s edition includes an interactive online version for users that facilitates navigation and access to the information presented in the report’s print version. The information that goes into the Yearbook is part of the set of statistics available on CEPALSTAT, the platform that provides access to all the updated statistical information on the region’s countries that is collected, systematized and published by ECLAC, and which is currently undergoing a technological and functional revamp.

Given that most of this information comes from national statistics offices, central banks, international bodies and other official institutions, ECLAC invites users to pay attention to the sources and the technical notes presented in this publication. The data is obtained using international methodologies and standards with the aim of ensuring the greatest possible comparability between countries, which means that these figures may not necessarily coincide with national data.