Volume 44, Number 174,
July-September 2013
Setbacks and Challenges for Social Policy in Mexico
José Narro Robles, David Moctezuma Narro
and Diego de la Fuente Stevens

Social policy has a long history in Mexico, both in terms of the diversity of programs and the amount of resources allocated to this issue. Programs and strategies to combat poverty, inequality and social marginalization have come with a variety of approaches and scopes.

The federal, state and local levels have all tried to address social issues. Program approaches have been either comprehensive, partial or sector-based and scopes have ranged from universal to very focused or regional, while some have been oriented towards urban environments and others towards rural. Other programs have been based on an ethnic or gender perspective.

Although poverty and inequality are historical problems with structural origins, it was not until the 1970s, in response to a steep drop in agricultural production and the crisis of the import substitution model, that social policy specifically designed to combat extreme poverty was implemented, especially in rural environments.

The first anti-poverty programs lacked a comprehensive and consistent approach in terms of social issues. This occurred when programs were oriented towards serving the poorest rural and marginalized groups, like the Public Investment for Rural Development Program (Pider) in 1973, and various actions undertaken by the General Committee of the National Plan for Depressed Zones and Marginalized Groups (Coplamar) in 1977.

This perspective prevailed throughout the 1980s. Aiming to eradicate food poverty among the poorest groups, the Mexican Food System (sam) was created in 1980. Another tool implemented in 1982 along the same lines was Section 26 of the federal budget, called “regional development.” Later, in December of 1988, the National Solidarity Program was established.

In the 1990s, focus shifted to the people, aiming for a comprehensive approach. Key strategies in this area were the Program for Education, Health and Food, better known as Progresa, which was in place between 1997 and 2002, and Oportunidades, the human development program that replaced it in its last year. Popular Insurance and Medical Insurance for a New Generation were more recent actions undertaken by the federal government, focused on health.

In the local realm, measures such as the Food Pension Plan for Adults over Age 70 and living in Mexico City were created in 2003.2 Similarly, the current federal government has implemented the National System for the Crusade Against Hunger (Sin Hambre), which will be established in 400 municipalities where 7.4 of the nearly 13 million people that suffer from food poverty live.

Financing these and other social programs requires extensive and growing public resources. For an approximate idea of the budget invested, between 2000 and 2012, federal spending to combat poverty rose to over 2.6 trillion pesos (see Table 1).

1In estimating poverty, Coneval takes into account eight factors, and income is only one of them: lack of education, access to health services, access to social security, living spaces and quality, basic housing services, access to food and level of social cohesion. When all of these are considered together, the number of poor people is 53 million. See the Coneval press release from June 29, 2011.

2In 2009, the minimum age to receive this pension was reduced to 68 years.

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 192, January-March is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Feb 23th, 2018.
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