Poverty in El Salvador, an issue that leads to crime, migration, and health issues.

A large percentage of Salvadorans live in poor conditions.

By Eddie Galdamez  |  Oct 12th, 2020
Poverty in El Salvador

Poverty in El Salvador is expected to increase in 2021. The international monetary fund, IMF, estimates a -4.3 GDP growth in 2020. The world bank states that the COVID19 pandemic could increase poverty in El Salvador in 2021. In 2018, the Salvadoran poverty rate was 25.7; this rate likely will increase in 2021.

Poverty is something many families or individuals face every day in El Salvador. Trying to get themselves or their families out of this cycle leads to many people choosing to migrate or get involved in illicit activities.

Many Salvadoran continue to live in poverty, not because they are lazy or unmotivated. There are factors beyond their control that prevent them from getting out of their current situation.

El Salvador data since 2016.

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
GDP 2.5 2.3 2.4 2.4 -5.4
Poverty Rate 30.7 28.9 25.7 N/A N/A
Unemployment 7.1 7.0 6.3 6.7 7.9

What keeps poverty in El Salvador alive?

The main reasons poverty continues for many families or individuals are crime, lack of opportunities, and the minimum wage.

Crime is the predominant reason some families are not able to get themselves out of poverty. Many families or individuals have to worry more about safety than spending that time looking for ways out of poverty.

Also, families or individuals living in poverty have to reside in areas mainly controlled by criminal organizations. Living in these areas means having less access to proper healthcare, education, and employment.

Lack of opportunities is another factor that keeps the cycle going. There is no denying that people who live in poverty have less access to opportunities to get a high paying job or a proper job.

Some employers will hesitate to hire an individual based on the location the person lives in. Furthermore, job opportunities near poverty-stricken areas are limited, and they don’t pay as well.

Even if a person living in poverty can get a job that pays the Salvadoran minimum wage, it is not enough to get them out of poverty. The Salvadoran minimum wage is so low that it hardly covers the essential cost of living.

To sum up, if you live in poverty, you will have to worry more about crime than employment. Also, you will have fewer opportunities based on your situation and residence. Lastly, even if you can get a job, you will not make enough to get you out of poverty.

El Salvador worker
Photo by Amelia Hunt

Poverty in El Salvador and Education.

Getting the proper education in impoverished communities is difficult to do for different reasons. Many people living in poverty do not see education for their children as a priority. This maintains the cycle of poverty alive.

There is no secret that schools in these areas are not well maintained and don’t have the right equipment. Also, getting teachers to go to teach in these areas is not easy. Teachers have the constant fear of getting attacked by criminal organizations just by venturing into the communities.

Another issue with education in impoverished communities is student’s attendance. Some parents don’t allow their kids to attend school because they fear that their kids could be attacked by gangs or forced to join them.

Also, some children are not allowed to go to school because their parents need them to help make money. Many kids start looking for ways to earn money early to support the family and, in the process, miss education.

It is unfair that many of these kids miss on getting an education. By not getting educated, they will miss future opportunities that can help them and their family get out of poverty.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” “No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.”
Nelson Mandela.
Nejapa Community
Photo by Jdklub

Effects of poverty on crime and migration.

The effects of poverty on migration and crime are evident in many communities in El Salvador. Over the last 20 years, the country has seen many migrating to larger cities or different countries. The number of youths from poverty-stricken communities that have died or gone to jail for illicit activities is alarming.

Many individuals, especially youth, see illicit activities as a way of getting out of poverty. They don’t realize that there will be consequences by choosing to go this route. Many of these kids end up in jail or dead instead of out of poverty.

Family displacement or forced migration is another result of poverty in El Salvador. Families from impoverished gang-infested communities leave to protect their families or start fresh in a new location.

Poverty in El Salvador

What should the government do? My point of view!

My point of view is that the first thing the government needs to do is to ensure safety, not an easy thing to accomplish. Only by giving a better sense of security, people in impoverished communities will seek more opportunities.

Also, the education system and infrastructure in these communities need to improve. If the new generations are giving a better education, they will most likely not live in poverty.

Lastly, the Salvadoran minimum wage needs to increase to levels that can allow families and individuals to move ahead. The current minimum wages are barely enough to survive.

Undoubtedly, poverty in El Salvador is a problem with deeps roots that will take years to overcome. Nonetheless, the sooner steps are taken to eradicate it, the sooner the country will improve.