Economic literacy is an item about which little is known despite its relevance to our lives, being able to handle concepts and tools to manage personal finances. However, according to the PISA test, Chile is below its peers in the OECD on this issue. The country’s average score in financial literacy according to the latest PISA survey of 2018, the results of which were delivered in 2020, was 451 points, below the 505 average for the OECD and the average of 478 points for the 20 participating countries.
For this reason, at the Universidad de la Frontera together with the National Youth Institute (Injuv) we carry out a diagnosis of financial knowledge with the aim of investigating economic attitudes and practices in a representative sample made up of 400 young people from Araucanía. The results, which, although they are from a specific target group in southern Chile, can be extrapolated to young people from any city in the country, since it is a clear x-ray of a reality that affects the financial well-being and quality of life of the population young man.
Among the main results of the research, it could be seen that at least 84.8% have low or medium economic literacy, which implies that they do not have the tools to make decisions in the financial field. The situation is alarming, considering that more than 50% of those surveyed could not face an economic emergency and more than a third had outstanding debts (most of them respond to loans for studies, bank and consumer debts, among others).
These negative results, from my perspective, are due to two fundamental questions. On the one hand, to the transversal penetration of the premises of the current economic model in the process of construction of identity of young people, who see in consumption a way to satisfy symbolic and affective needs of status and belonging, linked to the illusion freedom of choice and happiness offered by the model itself, and therefore, indebtedness appears as the way to achieve their dreams, beyond their own economic possibilities.
The great pending task is to be able to install in young people and in the general public, a critical view of the system in which they are inserted and the tools to be able to make rational economic and financial decisions that improve their quality of life. And for this, a quality financial education is essential. Although Chile has a national financial education strategy approved in 2018, it remains a dead letter because the actions and synergy necessary for its implementation and multisectoral articulation have not been articulated.
Contributing to this challenge, UFRO has taken a relevant step in that line, creating an educational model of financial education, scientifically founded that has already been implemented by Banco Estado on its platform in Fácil and in Chile and by the Center for Public Policies of the PUC for its online program The Future is Save. It is an initiative that seeks to intervene in the three areas that the research has shown to be key: critical thinking and financial planning capacity; Basic concepts and skills that allow better management of money, risk and future foresight, and a third area of attitudes and values encourages self-control, differentiation between needs and desires, tolerance to frustration and postponement of impulses. All key elements to exercise a responsible and active economic citizenship.
But this effort is not enough by itself, we need the State to assume in a real way the responsibility that the national financial education strategy means. It is a country debt that we should begin to pay if we effectively want financial issues to be a door to well-being and life satisfaction and not a problem that adds to the precarious living conditions of many of our population. Will we be able to face it?