Rich & Poor

While its per capita GDP of 23,000 USD (PPP) places Chile among the top countries in Latin America, almost nowhere on the Continent is the gap between rich and poor as wide as here. According to official statements 14,4 % of the population live in poverty, with as much as 4,5 % are considered 'extremely poor' - and this with a poverty limit of a meagre USD 145.00. While corporate managers draw top salaries by international comparison, unskilled workers have to make do with the legal minimum wage of 225,000 pesos/month (USD 350.00). Professions important to society such as teachers and salaried employees, judges and policemen are chronically underpaid.

This social divide is reinforced by an educational system , where excellence can only be bought with money. While state-run schools are cheap or free, they cannot compare with the expensive schools of the middle and upper classes. Post-secondary education also comes at a stiff price to families with kids.

Life is the most difficult for those who cannot find permanent employment, or who work in the large shadow economy without a social "net". They often live in make-shift slum dwellings or in deficient public housing on the periphery of the cities, where they do not offend the eyes of the people living in the better neighborhoods. Despite these social inequities the United Nations Human Development Index which evaluates, among other factors, life expectancy, education and income, ranks Chile among the 'highly developed' countries. In 2014, Chile ranked 41th, or first among South American countries behind Argentina (49) and Uruguay (51).