El espejismo de la clase media latinoamericana

BUENOS AIRES – El aumento del ingreso en los países en desarrollo llevará a que para 2020 se sumen 400 millones de personas más a los 1,8 mil millones que actualmente constituyen la clase media mundial. Su creciente poder de compra, especialmente de bienes y servicios de consumo no esenciales, es saludado como la gran esperanza de la economía mundial. Pero un examen más profundo de sus circunstancias económicas sugiere que estos nuevos consumidores no son ni tan ricos ni tan sólidos como parece.

La inmensa mayoría de quienes se incorporan a la clase media viene de los países emergentes de Asia. Pero un cambio socioeconómico similar en América Latina ofrece importantes lecciones para el resto del mundo en rápido crecimiento. La clase media latinoamericana se elevó en aproximadamente el 50 % entre 2003 y 2009, y llegó a los 152 millones de personas, cerca del 30 % de la población del continente, una proporción que indudablemente ha continuado en alza.

Esta notable transformación económica ha sido presentada como prueba del éxito de las políticas de crecimiento redistributivo implementadas en décadas anteriores. Tanto el aumento del empleo y de los salarios como las transferencias de dinero a los pobres y el sistema público de pensiones explican estos avances. Pero, si las políticas que redujeron la enorme pobreza y desigualdad de ingresos de los 90 seguramente deben ser aplaudidas, las mejoras en el bienestar asociadas con este desempeño pueden resultar menores de lo esperado.

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