Underemployment, inflation and other factors have eroded the income level of some 31 million Mexicans, and by the end of this year there will be more than 60 million people living below the poverty line, economist Jose Luis de la Cruz told Efe.

Although Mexico's macroeconomic figures are positive, growth has not resulted in a reduction in the conditions of poverty, according to De la Cruz, director of the Center for Research on the Economy and Business at the Mexico state campus of Monterrey Tech.

He said that from 2006 to 2010, some 12.2 million people fell below the poverty line, adding that in the last two years another 2.5 million people had joined them, bringing the total number of people below the poverty line to some 60 million.

He also said that the number of people in extreme poverty grew 44.2 percent between 2006 and 2010 and that the prices of staple foods is one of the areas most affected by the high inflation level over the past year.

De la Cruz said that up through July double-digit increases had been registered in prices for corn, 16.6 percent; rice, 11.4 percent; beef, 16.2 percent; eggs, 19.3 percent; tomatoes, 26 percent; and beans, up by a whopping 56 percent.

"This means that more people cannot acquire a basic food basket," the economist said.

While Mexico's official jobless rate is fairly low, 4.3 million workers are classified as underemployed, while 14.2 million others work in the underground economy.

Just 16.9 million Mexican workers have benefits such as health insurance.

"The labor market situation is precarious. There are 31 million Mexicans in a precarious situation, 15 million don't have an employment contract, some 11 million work for themselves, among them those who work as street vendors," De la Cruz said.

He added that between 10 million and 15 million workers making between three and four times the minimum wage find themselves in a shaky situation and are likely to slide into poverty in the event of an economic slowdown.

He also said that the problem is that Mexico is not a poor country, but rather a country of poor people, where substantial inequality in the distribution of wealth exists, along with monopolies and oligopolies and an economic policy without a social objective. EFE