By M. H. J. Finch
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Extra resources for A Political Economy of Uruguay since 1870
On the one hand their attempts to secure a wider share of the domestic market were opposed by the high commercial interests involved in overseas trade, and the concentration of land in the hands of the rural elite inhibited the extension of the market to rural Uruguay. On the other hand the growth of the market itself was entirely linked to expanded European demand for the output of the rural sector. Batllismo, in furthering the interests of this middleclass sector, largely confined itself to tax concessions to new importsubstituting enterprises requesting them, and an attempt to raise the minimum level of rural wages.
Taken together, these three principal strata of the rural poor account for approximately two-thirds of the rural population. In defining the rural upper and middle classes (excluding professional groups), the fundamental distinction between them exists in the concentration and control of the land by the former, with the consequent ability to determine the structure of the rural economy and to influence policy affecting it. In this respect the important change occurring in the twentieth century has been the increase in the number of farm units up to the mid-1950s-to rather more than double the 1908 figure-followed by a slight contraction.
Employers discriminate in favour of unmarried men or those unencumbered by obligations to their families, so that normal social responsibilities are evaded by employers and the work force. The massive sex imbalance in this stratum of the rural population is reflected in a preponderance of women in the rural population concentrations. The inhabitants of the pueblos, the lowest rural stratum, have neither continuous employment nor access to land, form a large reservoir of surplus labour, and live in conditions of extreme poverty.