During the presidency of Rafael Correa (2007 to 2017), a radical transformation took place in Ecuador. Correa himself referred to his policy as the Citizens' Revolution. Large-scale government investment in the social system and the country's infrastructure significantly reduced the national poverty rate and improved access to public goods and services (including water and sanitation, education and health).
The new constitution adopted in 2008 invokes the guiding principle of a firmly established concept in indigenous culture, sumak kawsay (a Kichwa expression meaning “good living”, or buen vivir in Spanish). The constitution defines Ecuador as a social, democratic, intercultural, multinational and secular state. It lays down basic social rights – such as the rights to food, health and education – and declares national sovereignty over strategic resources.
The World Bank reports that, between 2007 and 2019, the proportion of people living below the national poverty line dropped from 36.7 per cent to 25 per cent, and that the proportion of those living in extreme poverty decreased from 8.5 per cent to 3.6 per cent. Annual gross national income per capita rose from the equivalent of 3,330 US dollars in 2007 to the equivalent of 6,090 US dollars in 2019, but has stagnated over the last few years. This level of GNI means that Ecuador is an upper-middle-income country. The Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Ecuador 95th out of the 191 countries assessed. The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed the development gains of several years in Ecuador.
Social divide not yet closed
Severe poverty still persists in the rural areas of Ecuador, where it affects, in particular, indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian groups, and children. While social inequality has been reduced (the Gini index on income inequality dropped from 53.3 in 2007 to 45.4 in 2018), the divide between rich and poor is still wide, as is the case in many Latin American countries. In 2020, the official unemployment rate rose to five per cent. Nearly 23 per cent of the workforce are considered to be underemployed. The impact of the continuing economic and COVID-19 crisis will leave a deep mark on the country's socio-economic situation and will reverse part of the progress made in the social sphere.