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SOCIAL CONDITIONS Social problems include a rapidly increasing population inequitable income distribution regional imbalances and a discontented middle class In addition rampant drug trafficking has destabilized large parts of society and corrupted officials The benefits of the substantial economic progress since the mid-1980s have been enjoyed mainly by those already wealthy and even this progress was interrupted by the 19941995 financial crisis Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the population grew by more than 35 annually the population doubled between 1967 and 1996 Despite an aggressive government birth-control program that began in the mid-1970s the annual growth rate still stands at about 22 a level expected to continue through 2000 severely hampering economic development Children younger than 15 constitute 36 of the population Nearly 1 million new workers enter the market each year and only a small percentage find decent jobs High birth rates are sustained by deeply ingrained social resistance to birth control Aging parents rely on the help of children because they can count on almost no social welfare protection or unemployment compensation Living standards have also been lowered by the economic reform policies since 1982 An estimated 100000 jobs were lost between 1991 and 1994 as a wave of bankruptcies hit smaller companies that could not compete with foreign businesses Privatization has cut thousands of jobs The real incomes of most people have fallen sharply and the number of landless peasants has risen The high birth rate and rural migration to urban areas have made many cities virtually unmanageable Economic recovery in 1996 and 1997 largely bypassed the poor the gap between rich and poor is enormous and has increased since the 19941995 devaluations In mid-1997 Zedillo acknowledged that the 40 of the population who were poor were not benefiting from recent economic gains and announced an anti-poverty program dubbed El Progresa However the 155 million allocated to the program makes it exceedingly modest given the scope of the problem The 19941995 financial
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