29 2005

Nov. 29, 2005

New Survey Documents Salary Discrepancies Between
Native And Non-Native Chileans

(Nov. 29, 2005) Salary discrimination against indigenous peoples continues to characterize Chilean workplaces, according to a recent investigation by the National Socioeconomic Characterization (CASEN) and the Ministry of Planning and Cooperation (MIDEPLAN).

The study shows that on average, people of native decent are paid 26 percent less, approximately 131,000 pesos per month (US$255), than non-indigenous Chileans of similar job status.

Chile’s indigenous populations make up 5.4 percent of the country’s total residents, with 88 percent of these populations belonging to the Mapuche community. Chile also recognizes the populations (in descending order according to population size) of the Aymara, Quechua, Rapa Nui, Colla, Kawashkar, and Yagán tribes.

The CASEN and MIDEPLAN study detailed that salary discrimination pervades all types of Chilean businesses. In the restaurant and hotel trade, indigenous employees are paid 150,000 pesos (US$289) per month in comparison to a non-indigenous salary of 192,173 pesos (US$370).

The most evident salary discrepancy, however, is found within the financial sector. A non- indigenous Chilean is paid 654,146 pesos (US$1,260) per month, while indigenous persons receive less than half that amount, 288,322 pesos (US$556).

Indigenous groups in Chile said workplace discrimination is just one of the many indignities they have been facing for years.

“This is just one type of discrimination that we suffer,” said Hialario Huirilef, a representative of indigenous communities in Chile. “Now you can see we are not just being crybabies, because these statistics back us up.”

While these current salary discrepancies seem shockingly high, they have actually dropped in the past two years. In 2003, the CASEN and MIDEPLAN report showed a 34 percentage difference between salaries, which this year has fallen to a 26 percent difference.

The study attributed the salary discrepancies not only to high levels of racism, but to poor education among indigenous communities as well. A UNICEF study last year showed that approximately 50 percent of Chilean students said Chile was superior to other Latin American countries because they had fewer “Indians”.

While 90 percent of indigenous people know how to read and write, in rural areas the illiteracy rates among older indigenous people are high: 20 percent of indigenous people aged 35 to 59, and 45 percent of people aged 60 and over are illiterate. School drop-out rates are also considerably higher in rural areas. Approximately 25 percent of children aged 6 to 17, and 50 percent of youths aged 18 to 25 drop out of school before graduation from middle school.

“Indigenous youth drop out of school due to economic difficulties, but this educational desertion only leads them to poorly paid jobs,” the study said, adding that it’s a vicious cycle leading only to the black hole of devastating poverty.

Jaime Andrade Guenchocoy, MIDEPLAN’S sub-secretary, said all of these issues, including the salary discrimination and poor education, help contribute to especially high poverty levels among Chile’s indigenous populations.

Approximately 29 percent of Chile’s indigenous populations live below the poverty line, and one in five households make less than 43,000 pesos (US$82) a month. Even more disconcerting, the average Chilean indigenous family income is 40 percent lower than non-indigenous Chilean families.

The study also shows that the majority of Chileans living in extreme poverty are indigenous populations. “Being a poor Chilean, and being a poor Chilean of indigenous descent, is not the same thing,” the study read.

This crippling poverty among native populations is a problem that affects all Latin American countries. A recent report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) showed that of the 213 million Latin Americans living in poverty, 86 million of these of are of indigenous decent (ST, Nov. 29).

By Jackie Hailey