45% of Colombians live in poverty

Almost half of Colombia’s population live in poverty, while 16.6% suffer extreme poverty, according to a study released by government statistics agency DANE on Friday.

The study found that the percentage of Colombians who lived below the poverty line in 2009 was 45.5%, down slightly from the 46% in 2008, despite a decrease in average per capita income of households.

The average Colombian household earned COP560,409 ($287) last year, a 2% drop on the previous year when average earnings stood at COP570,258 ($292).

The government said, however, that half a million Colombians came out of extreme poverty in 2009.

In February the government announced a state-funded program to help 1.5 million families out of extreme poverty.

The largest reduction of poverty recorded in a major metropolitan area was in Bucaramanga, where the rate fell from 24.7% in 2008 to 18.5% last year.

As poverty rates in Colombia declined slightly, the gap between the rich and the poor also narrowed.

The GINI coefficient, which measures the inequality of wealth distribution, fell to 0.578 in 2009 from 0.589 in the previous year.

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