While the pandemic has been used as an excuse for mismanagement, bad governance and other unfortunate events, in Mexico it is not the only reason for the deepening lower class that exists today.
After winning back in 2018, Lopez Obrador pushed the ‘poor first’ slogan as he promised to end whatever worries they had. He founded the party, Morena, ten years ago in hopes of uplifting marginalized communities neglected under previous administrations.
Economists point to the mismanagement of the economy and social programs, despite being led by a president, Lopez Obrador, whose campaign consisted of policies that would lift the poor and lower classes out of harm’s way. But halfway through the president’s six-year term, the working class finds itself buried.
One of President Lopez Obrador’s recent jabs at the lower class was the end of his “full-time schools” program, previously introduced by the former president’s former rival Vicente Calderon in 2007. It was the one of the only Mexican educational programs internationally recognized by UNICEF and The World Bank has repeatedly enabled more than 25,000 schools to extend their school hours, allowing parents and single mothers to work a full day and earn money to support their household.
According to Mexico Evalúa, a research institute, the program has provided more than 3.6 million children with hot meals and extra school hours, which has proven to be a huge positive for the children, as the ratings overall have improved. Children used to spend six to eight hours in school, but with the removal of the curriculum this was reduced to four hours. The ripple effect has in turn allowed parents and mothers to work only half days before having to pick up their children, reducing their income and creating less education time for children.
Earlier in the year, Public Education Minister Delfina Gómez announced the end of the program, citing that the government was looking to improve some areas of education like classroom and toilet infrastructure – one of the victims of the government trying to overhaul the welfare system. Even though it is still the 15th largest economy in the world, this persistence of poor governance will hurt growth and hamper the country’s recovery.
Lopez Obrador’s critics say he only ended the program because it was introduced by his rival Calderon and that Lopez Obrador only wants policies bearing his name and authority. Whatever the reasons, the marginalized will suffer.
Mexico was one of the only world powers not to increase spending during the pandemic to ease the hardship caused by the pandemic, showing the government’s focus on balanced books rather than additional debt to help the country’s poorest communities. According to government data, the lack of government support during these difficult times has led 3.8 million Mexicans to become impoverished by the end of 2020. Currently, 56 million people in Mexico have no not the basic necessities for day-to-day living.
According to Mexican government figures, more than 5 million students in all grades have dropped out of school out of financial need or simply because parents could not afford to leave work early to pick up their children and have rather decided to release them all together.
Inflation and the end of major social protection programs have left millions of poor families with little hope of seeing their situation change in their lifetime. Some of President Lopez Obrador’s policies to try to improve the situation include direct cash transfers instead of social assistance programs that provide basic necessities regardless of their particular income. Many who need it may not get it, and those who need it may not need it or spend it effectively, creating more problems.
Similar to the one-time $1,200 payments the United States provided during the pandemic, during which many who needed it did not receive it and wealthy people also received the money.
Other efforts included an apprenticeship program to help increase the number of jobs, but many businesses in Mexico do not officially work with the government, with many Mexicans getting cash under the table.
Under the current system that Lopez Obrador has in place when it comes to education, the government will provide funds as it sees fit to each school, and then committees made up of parents will decide how to allocate them. However, many working families are unable to serve on the committee because of the work and the fear is that the money will not be properly allocated to those who need it most and corruption may ensue. , which is not uncommon in the country.
According to Mexicanos Primero, an education advocacy group, with more than 2,000 schools having already reduced their extended days, more will follow in the coming months. While the government focuses on unnecessary, costly and questionable infrastructure bills, education is devalued.
Mexican economists say any kind of support for the economy over the previous three decades was due to women entering the workforce in waves as a result of government childcare programs, but being given that programs have been cut, economic recovery is going to be hard to come by anytime soon.