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Chile has made tremendous progress over the last decade in terms of improving the quality of life of its citizens. Since the 1990s, the country has seen a track record of robust growth and poverty reduction. Notwithstanding, Chile ranks low in a large number of topics relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index.
Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Chile, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 11 039 USD a year, much less than the OECD average of 23 047 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn 13 times as much as the bottom 20%.
In terms of employment, over 61% of people aged 15 to 64 in Chile have a paid job, below the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 74% of men are in paid work, compared with 49% of women. People in Chile work 2 047 hours a year, more than the OECD average of 1 776 hours. Some 16% of employees work very long hours, more than the OECD average of 9%, with 20% of men working very long hours compared with just 10% for women.
Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Chile, 71% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, below the OECD average of 74%. There is little difference between men and women, as 72% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 71% of women. In terms of education quality, the average student in Chile scored 439 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is lower than the OECD average of 497. On average in Chile, girls outperformed boys by 3 points, less than the average OECD gap of 9 points.
In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Chile is almost 78 years, two years lower than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 81 years, compared with 76 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs –is 53 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably higher than the OECD average of 21 micrograms per cubic meter. Chile could perform better in terms of water quality, as 77% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, lower than the OECD average of 84%.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a moderate sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Chile, where 82% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, lower than the OECD average of 90%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 88% during recent elections; higher than the OECD average of 72%. There is little difference in voting levels across society; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is 90% and for the bottom 20% it is 92%, a much narrower difference than the OECD average gap of 12 percentage points.
In general, Chileans are less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 77% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is lower than the OECD average of 80%.
OECD in Action
OECD Economic Surveys: Chile 2013
OECD's 2013 review of Chile's economy examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. Special chapters cover innovation and entrepreneurship.Read this report
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Chile in Detail
Housing – Chile expand
Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives. Housing is essential to meet basic needs, such as shelter, but it is not just a question of four walls and a roof. Housing should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe and have privacy and personal space; somewhere they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home. And of course there is the question whether people can afford adequate housing.
Housing costs take up a large share of the household budget and represent the largest single expenditure for many individuals and families, by the time you add up elements such as rent, gas, electricity, water, furniture or repairs. In Chile, households on average spend 18% of their gross adjusted disposable income on keeping a roof over their heads, less than the OECD average of 21%.
In addition to housing costs it is also important to examine living conditions, such as the average number of rooms shared per person and whether households have access to basic facilities. In Chile, 76% of people say they are satisfied with their current housing situation, much less than the OECD average of 87%. This low level of subjective satisfaction reflects Chile’s mixed performance in objective housing indicators.
The number of rooms in a dwelling, divided by the number of persons living there, indicates whether residents are living in crowded conditions. Overcrowded housing may have a negative impact on physical and mental health, relations with others and children’s development. In addition, dense living conditions are often a sign of inadequate water and sewage supply. In Chile, the average home contains 1.3 rooms per person, less than the OECD average of 1.6 rooms per person. In terms of basic facilities, 90.6% of people in Chile live in dwellings with private access to an indoor flushing toilet, one of the lowest rates across the OECD, where the average is 97.8%.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Targeting housing subsidies to help the poorest
Chile has made important progress in improving access to housing during the past two decades. Today most Chileans live in adequate housing and the number of people living in informal settlements has sharply decreased. But, a still substantial 10% of the total population lives in poor housing conditions, either overcrowded, of inadequate quality and/or with poor access to basic services (compared with about 20% twenty years ago).
In many ways Chile’s housing subsidy programmes have been successful in improving the living conditions of the poor. At 1.1% of GDP in 2010, public spending on housing support is much higher than in many OECD countries. This shows the high importance the government places on solving the housing problem.
At the same time, the government should also rethink subsidies, which are currently directed exclusively at home ownership, and over time redirect some housing subsidies to means-tested rental allowances for low-income tenants. These coupled with more balanced tenant-landlord regulations would strengthen the rental market.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Community – Chile expand
Humans are social creatures. The frequency of our contact with others and the quality of our personal relationships are thus crucial determinants of our well-being. Helping others can also make you happier. In Chile, around 56% of people reported having helped a stranger in the last month, more than the OECD average of 48%.
A strong social network, or community, can provide emotional support during both good and bad times as well as provide access to jobs, services and other material opportunities. In Chile, 82% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, less than the OECD average of 90%. There is a 6 percentage point difference between men and women, as 79% of men believe they have this kind of social support, compared with 85% of women. While gender has little impact on social network support, there is a clear relationship between the availability of social support on the one hand, and people’s education level, on the other. In Chile, only 75% of people who have completed primary education report having someone to count on for help in times of need, compared to 89% for people who attained tertiary education.
A weak social network can result in limited economic opportunities, a lack of contact with others, and eventually, feelings of isolation. Socially isolated individuals face difficulties integrating into society as a contributing member and fulfilling personal aspirations.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Insights: Human Capital
Education – Chile expand
A well-educated and well-trained population is essential for a country’s social and economic well-being. Education plays a key role in providing individuals with the knowledge, skills and competences needed to participate effectively in society and in the economy. Most concretely, having a good education greatly improves the likelihood of finding a job and earning enough money. Across OECD countries, 83% of people with university-level degrees have a job, compared with just below 56% for those with only a secondary school diploma. Lifetime earnings also increase with each level of education.
Following a decline in manual labour over previous decades, employers now favour a more educated labour force. High-school graduation rates therefore provide a good indication of whether a country is preparing its students to meet the minimum requirements of the job market. In Chile, 71% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, below the OECD average of 74%. There is little difference between men and women, as 72% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 71% of women. This 1 percentage point difference is smaller than the OECD average difference of 2 percentage points. Among younger people – a better indicator of Chile’s future – 87% of 25-34 year-olds have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, higher than the OECD average of 82%.
Chileans can expect to go through 16.2 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, slightly less than the OECD average of 16.5 years. This level of education expectancy echoes Chile’s good performance in the educational attainment of its 25-34 year-old population.
But graduation rates, while important, speak little to the quality of education received. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reviews the extent to which students have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. In 2009, PISA focused on examining students’ reading ability, skills in maths and level in sciences, as research shows that these skills are more reliable predictors of economic and social well-being than the number of years spent in school.
The average student in Chile scored 439, lower than the OECD average of 497. Although girls outperformed boys in many OECD countries, in Chile boys scored 3 points higher than girls on average.
The best-performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students. In Chile, the average difference in results, between the 20% with the highest socio-economic background and the 20% with the lowest socio-economic background, is 99 points, in line with the OECD average. This suggests the school system in Chile provides relatively equal access to high-quality education.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Environment – Chile expand
The quality of our local living environment has a direct impact on our health and well-being. Outdoor air pollution is one important environmental issue that directly affects the quality of peoples’ lives. Despite national and international interventions and decreases in major pollutant emissions, the health impacts of urban air pollution continue to worsen, with air pollution set to become the top environmental cause of premature mortality globally by 2050. Air pollution in urban centres, often caused by transport and the use of small-scale burning of wood or coal, is linked to a range of health problems, from minor eye irritation to upper respiratory symptoms in the short-term and chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in the long-term. Children and the elderly may be particularly vulnerable.
PM10 – tiny particulate matter small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of the lung – is monitored in OECD countries because it can harm human health and reduce life expectancy. In Chile, PM10 levels are 53.3 micrograms per cubic meter, by far the highest level in the OECD where the average is of 20.9 micrograms per cubic meter, and a much higher level than the annual guideline limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter set by the World Health Organization.
Access to clean water is fundamental to human well-being. Despite significant progress in OECD countries in reducing water pollution, improvements in freshwater quality are not always easy to discern. In Chile, 77% of people say they are satisfied with water quality,lower than the OECD average of 84%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030
Governance – Chile expand
A cohesive society is one where citizens have a high degree of confidence in their governmental institutions and public administration. In Chile, 51% of people say they trust their political institutions, slightly less than the OECD average of 56%. High voter turnout is another measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process. In the most recent elections for which data is available, voter turnout in Chile was 88% of those registered. This figure is much higher than the OECD average of 72%.
Even if the right to vote is universal in all OECD countries, not everyone exercises this right. There is little difference in the voting rates of men and women in most OECD countries. This is the case in Chile, where the voter turnout of men and women is similar, at respectively 87% and 89%. While on average there are few differences between men and women concerning participation in elections, income can have a strong influence on voter turnout. In Chile, voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 90%, whereas the participation rate of the bottom 20% is an estimated 92%. This 2 percentage point difference is much lower than the OECD average difference of 12 percentage points, and suggests there is broad social inclusion in Chile’s democratic institutions. Furthermore, Chile is the only country where the bottom 20% are more likely to vote than the top 20%.
Ensuring that government decision making is not compromised by conflicts of interest is key to maintaining trust in government. Transparency is therefore essential to hold government to account and to maintain confidence in public institutions.
Freedom of information laws (FOI) allow the possibility for individuals to access undisclosed information. For such policies to be successful, the public should have a clear understanding of their rights under the law, should be able to file requests with ease and should be protected against any possible retaliation. People in Chile can file a request for information either in writing, in person or online, but not yet by telephone. In addition, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from retaliation.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Health – Chile expand
Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades, thanks to improvements in living conditions, public health interventions and progress in medical care. Life expectancy at birth in Chile stands at 78 years, two years below the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 81 years, compared with 76 for men, a slightly smaller difference than the OECD average gender gap of six years, with a life expectancy of 83 years for women and 77 years for men.
Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher healthcare spending per person, although many other factors such as living standards, lifestyles, education and environmental factors have an impact on life expectancy. Total health spending accounts for 8.0% of GDP in Chile in 2010, lower than the average of 9.5% in OECD countries. Chile alsoranks below the OECD average in terms of total health spending per person, at 1202 USD in 2010, compared with an OECD average of 3268 USD. However, health spending in Chile increased in real terms by 8.7% per year on average between 2000 and 2009, a much faster growth rate than the OECD average of 4.7%, and by another 7.1% in 2010.
Throughout the OECD, tobacco consumption and excessive weight gain remain important risk factors for many chronic diseases. In Chile, the proportion of adults who smoke daily is 29.8%, higher than the OECD average of 21.1%. In many OECD countries, large proportions of the population are overweight or obese. In Chile, the obesity rate among adults is 25.1%, higher than the OECD average of 17.8%. Obesity’s growing prevalence foreshadows increases in the occurrence of health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma, and higher health care costs in the future.
When asked, “How is your health in general?” 59% of people in Chile reported to be in good health, less than the OECD average of 69%. Despite the subjective nature of this question, answers have been found to be a good predictor of people’s future health care use. Gender, age and social status may affect answers to this question. On average in OECD countries, men are more likely to report good health than women, with an average of 71% for men and 66% for women. In Chile, 67% of men reported being in good health and 51% of women. Not surprisingly, older people report poorer health, as do those who are unemployed, or who have less education or income. About 69% of the top 20% of the adult population in Chile rate their health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, compared to about 49% for the bottom 20%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Income – Chile expand
While money may not buy happiness, it is an important means to achieving higher living standards and thus greater well-being. Higher economic wealth may also improve access to quality education, healthcare and housing.
Household net-adjusted disposable income is the amount of money that a household earns each year after tax. It represents the money available to a household for spending on goods or services. In Chile, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 11 039 USD a year, lower than the OECD average of 23 047 USD.
Household financial wealth is the total value of a household’s financial worth. In Chile, the average household net financial wealth is estimated at 16 972 USD, lower than the OECD average of 40 516 USD. While the ideal measure of household wealth should include real assets (e.g. land and dwellings), such information is currently available for only a small number of OECD countries.
Despite a general increase in living standards across OECD countries over the past fifteen years, not all people have benefited from this to the same extent. In Chile, the average net adjusted disposable income of the top 20% of the population is an estimated 31 040 USD a year, whereas the bottom 20% live on an estimated 2 392 USD a year.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Jobs – Chile expand
Having a job brings many important benefits, including: providing a source of income, improving social inclusion, fulfilling one’s own aspirations, building self-esteem and developing skills and competencies. In Chile, around 61% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. This figure is lower than the OECD employment average of 66%. Employment rates are generally higher for individuals with a higher level of education; in Chile an estimated 72% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job, compared with an estimated 58% for those without an upper secondary education. This 14 percentage point difference is smaller than the OECD average of 37 percentage points and suggests the job market in Chile is relatively inclusive.
Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market. In Chile, 49% of women have jobs. This is less than the OECD average of 60% and much less than the 74% employment rate of men in Chile. This 25 percentage point gender difference is much larger than the OECD average of 12 percentage points and suggests employment opportunities for women could be improved in Chile.
Young Chileans aged 15-24 also face difficulties, with an unemployment rate of 17.5% compared with an OECD average of 16.2%. Unemployed persons are defined as those who are not currently working but are willing to do so and actively searching for work. Long-term unemployment can have a large negative effect on feelings of well-being and self-worth and result in a loss of skills, further reducing employability.
The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. In Chile, people earn 15 820 US dollars per year on average, less than the OECD average of 34 466 USD.
More ResourcesWell‑being in the workplace: Measuring job quality
Life Satisfaction – Chile expand
Happiness or subjective well-being can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries.
Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective well-being. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Chileans gave it a 6.5 grade, close to the OECD average of 6.6.
There is little difference in life satisfaction levels between men and women across OECD countries. This is true in Chile, where men gave their life a 6.7 grade and women 6.4. Education levels do, however, strongly influence subjective well-being. Whereas people who have only completed primary education in Chile have a life satisfaction level of 6.0, this score reaches 7.4 for people with tertiary education.
Happiness, or subjective well-being, is also measured by the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and/or the absence of negative experiences and feelings. In Chile, 77% of people reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is lower than the OECD average of 80%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Safety – Chile expand
Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and largely reflects the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Across the OECD, assault rates have generally declined in the past five years. In Chile, 8.3% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, much more than the OECD average of 4.0%. There is little difference between men and women in assault rates, at 8.4% for men and 8.1% for women.
The homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, Chile’s homicide rate is 3.7, much higher than the OECD average of 2.2. In Chile, the gender gap is relatively high, as the homicide rate for men is 6.5 compared with 1.0 for women.
Fear of crime is another important indicator as it can constrain behaviour, restrict freedom and threaten the foundation of communities. Despite a general reduction in assault rates in the past five years, in many OECD countries feelings of security have declined. In Chile, 46% of people feel safe walking alone at night, lower than the OECD average of 67%. While men are at a greater risk of being victims of assaults and violent crimes, women report lower feelings of security than men. This has been explained by a greater fear of sexual attacks, the feeling they must also protect their children and their concern that they may be seen as partially responsible.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Work-Life Balance – Chile expand
Finding a suitable balance between work and life is a challenge for all workers, especially working parents. Some couples would like to have (more) children, but do not see how they could afford to stop working. Other parents are happy with the number of children in their family, but would like to work more. This is a challenge to governments because if parents cannot achieve their desired work/life balance, not only is their welfare lowered but so is development in the country.
An important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress. People in Chile work 2 047 hours a year, one of the highest levels in the OECD where the average is 1 776 hours. The share of employees working more than 50 hours per week is not very large across OECD countries. In Chile, however, more than 16% of employees work very long hours, compared with an OECD average of 9%. Overall, men spend more hours in paid work: in Chile 20% of men work very long hours, compared with 10% for women.