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Culture & Religion

Latin America’s Working Class Rising Up

As underdeveloped economies grow, wages and respect are on the rise for Latin America's working class population. The UN calls the region the world's most unequal society.

What’s the Latest Development?

Sharp class divisions in Latin America are beginning to wane, say sociologists who observe the region. As a larger segment of society enters the middle class, working-class citizensfrom parking attendants to construction workers to maidsare less tolerant of low wages and a lack of respect. In Brazil, “the income of domestic workers increased 5.05 percent per year from 2003 to 2009, compared with 1.16 percent for employers.” The region’s economic development has been accompanied by expanding political rights.

What’s the Big Idea?

As more people gain access to credit and a place in the middle class, demands have expanded beyond greater political rights for indigenous populations, which has been the primary battle for justice over the last two decades. “The rigid status hierarchies of the past are starting to clash with notions of quality of opportunities,” says Christopher Sabatini, editor in chief of the policy journal Americas Quarterly in New York. Continued improvements will depend on employees’ access to fair and enforceable labor contracts.

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