RAYMOND, Maine — After the government announced the postponement of its population and housing census, Bolivian workers took to the streets. The strike is occurring in the city of Santa Cruz, a dominant Bolivian agricultural site. The census is long-awaited as Bolivians expect it to expose the scarce resources for much-needed housing and socio-economic reforms. The postponed census initiated Bolivia’s workers to strike, and the strike indicates more changes to come.
Bolivia’s Housing Crisis
With a poverty rate of 36.4% as of 2021, Bolivians anxiously await any form of government intervention in the housing crisis and any form of socio-economic assistance. Bolivia is experiencing an overwhelming housing shortage, which many Bolivians hoped the census would reveal. With statistical evidence of the housing deficit and slums, Bolivians anticipated governmental intervention as opposed to more reliance on non-governmental organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
At least 58% of Bolivians live in “slum” housing, and 31% of houses have groups of three or more family members sharing bedrooms, Habitat for Humanity reports. Bolivia’s homeless crisis is impacting children at an alarming rate. An estimated 800,000 Bolivian children are homeless.
Bolivians who live in inadequate housing suffer health damages: only 49% of Santa Cruz houses have access to proper sewerage systems. Improperly disposed waste fosters bacteria contaminating surrounding soil and water, leading to infections and illnesses. The waste also causes diseases. such as cholera, malaria, dengue fever and respiratory infections.
Despite the work of non-government organizations (NGOs), like Water for People, an NGO cleaning water and improving sanitation practices throughout Bolivia. It was in 2019 that the government began earnest efforts to improve sanitation, the World Bank reports. The latest efforts include fighting the housing crisis, but the missing census data makes these efforts increasingly difficult. Without the hard data to expose areas in which housing and sanitation are in trouble, the crisis will continue. The continued crisis is why Bolivia’s workers are striking.
Bolivia’s World Agricultural Status
Agriculture is one of the key contributors to the Bolivian Gross Domestic Product, accounting for approximately 13% of the country’s GDP and employing 30% of Bolivia’s workforce.
Santa Cruz has one of Bolivia’s largest agricultural workforces, meaning the strike will leave thousands already experiencing financial hardships in grave financial danger. Santa Cruz is the heart of the Bolivian economy as it is the epicenter of Bolivia’s agricultural world and development, according to Reuters.
Agriculture became crucial for Bolivia’s economic prosperity and development, starting with Former President Evo Morales when he assumed office in 2006. He introduced an overhauling of the old agricultural socio-economic world in Bolivia. Morales created development where it was lacking previously. The reforms began new hopes for Bolivia’s agrarian work sector and helped many find economic footing.
The World Bank has granted $39 million to Bolivia’s agricultural initiatives and departments. The departments, industries and grants have provided access to 151,579 hectares of land for agriculture workers to improve their livelihoods with 237 productive associations.
As Bolivia’s agricultural sector has proven invaluable to the development of Bolivia’s economy and workforce, the government should not take the strike lightly. The country could suffer immensely if the agricultural workforce pauses for too long. As Bolivia’s workers strike, the progress for which the country fought is at risk. Without the approval of the census, these workers do not intend to back down.
Importance of the Bolivian Census
Santa Cruz’s population represents one-quarter of Bolivia’s overall population and political interests, but the region feels vastly under-supported socio-economically. Many Bolivians pinned their hopes on the routine census, which would spotlight Bolivia’s shortcomings in addressing its poverty issues. However, the government postponed the census indefinitely under claims of “technical reasons.” The government claims the census will be delayed until the end of 2024 as Bolivia approaches election year, which could disrupt the proceedings, Reuters reports.
While Bolivia’s workers strike, Santa Cruz shuts downs, and food chains are disrupted as Santa Cruz produces 64% of Bolivia’s food supply. The census is critical for Bolivia to understand which regions of the country are suffering most and how. This data could effectively expose the housing shortage and state in which many families live and re-outline the Bolivian Parliamentary seats to ensure equal and fair representation.
Bolivia’s worker’s strike is a way to push for socio-economic justice and improve the quality of living, diminish the health crises and ease the poverty rate in and around Bolivia. Should the country go for long without the work of Santa Cruz and the census, millions will suffer.
– Clara Mulvihill