Standard of Living
During the past several decades, Mexico has made significant advances in literacy and the provision of public education. In 2004 the adult literacy rate stood at 91 percent (92 percent among men and 90 percent among women). Mexican law mandates universal preschool, primary, and secondary education. Eleven years of education are compulsory, but in practice the average number of years of schooling for the population 15 and over was around eight years during 2005. That year, Mexico had 27.1 million students in primary, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions. Enrollment rates in primary education are high (97 percent of girls and 98 percent of boys); however, many students- especially those from poor families-do not complete high school, opting instead to enter the workforce. Seventy percent of eligible students were enrolled in secondary education in 2006.
Education accounts for a quarter of public spending-the highest share of public spending on education among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Notwithstanding the proportionally large education budget, spending per student is low by international standards-about a quarter of the OECD average for primary education and a third of the OECD average for secondary education. Most current spending at the primary and secondary levels goes to the compensation of staff, leaving few resources for infrastructure, supplies, and training. The performance of Mexican secondary school students in math, reading, and science is the lowest of all OECD countries and ranks well below the OECD average.
Aggregate health statistics have improved greatly since the 1970s. However, Mexico lags well behind other OECD countries in health status and health care availability. Total health care spending accounted for 6.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005; per capita spending on health care was US$675 (adjusted for purchasing power parity)-about a quarter of the OECD average. During 2005, 45.5 percent of health spending was paid from public sources-comparable to the share of public spending in the United States but significantly below the OECD average. Private financing in Mexico is almost entirely in the form of out-of-pocket payments, as only 3.1 percent of total expenditures on health are funded through private health insurance. In 2005 Mexico had 1.8 doctors and 2.2 nurses per 1,000 population, a significant increase in health care personnel over the previous decade but again below the OECD averages for these indicators. The mortality rate for children younger than five years was 27 per 1,000 live births in 2005. Ninety-seven percent of the population had direct access to potable water and 79 percent to sanitation. In 2005 the incidence of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) among persons aged 15 to 49 was 0.3 percent.
Mexico has made progress in reducing poverty since the late 1990s, performing above the Latin American average. However, nearly half the population continues to live in poverty; about 15 percent of the total population subsists in extreme poverty, with limited access to food and basic services. Residents of southern Mexico consistently trail the rest of the country in quality-of-life indicators. Urban workers in the informal sector of the economy do not have access to the same level of health care as their counterparts in the formal sector, nor do they qualify for retirement or pension benefits. About half the workforce is registered with the Mexican Social Security Institute.
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