Situated near the Argentinian border, on the River Paraguay, Asunción is the country’s capital and economic centre. With 525,000 inhabitants in the city itself, and 3 million in the metropolitan area, it is home to almost half of the Paraguayan population.
But Asunción is a divided city where much of the infrastructure is deteriorated and insufficient to meet people’s needs. In the Bañados area, unpaved roads and unsafe housing are prone to flooding and do not provide adequate living conditions for children.
Since 1982, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Asunción.
In Paraguay, the illiteracy rate is 5% – it stands at 3% in urban areas but is much higher in the countryside, where it is over 9%. And at 6%, women are more often illiterate than men (5%). Foundational reading and numeracy skills are essential for full social and economic participation.
Yet, many of those rural residents are migrating to Asunción in search of work, where the work opportunities are informal in nature. This means longer working hours and less security, and it can have detrimental effects on family stability and the well-being of children.
The majority of the families in these impoverished urban areas are unable to find official work – many live off selling merchandise or homemade food on the streets, or collecting and selling rubbish. In fact, 61% of the Paraguayan workforce does not hold a formal job. Unable to break through the cycle of poverty, they do not have social security and do not contribute to any retirement pension. The majority of informal workers are in precarious employment – it is not a choice but rather a result of the lack of opportunities in the formal sector.