Colombian society exhibits strong class divisions. The Colombian upper class largely consists of a wealthy white elite, some of whom trace their lineage to the aristocracy of the colonial era. The wealth of this privileged group is based mainly on the ownership of land and property. The upper class also includes some people who accumulated wealth more recently, through commercial and entrepreneurial activities. The middle class grew as a result of industrialization and economic diversification in the 20th century. Historically, the middle class was small and politically passive, made up largely of those who had fallen from the aristocracy through loss of wealth and property.
During the 20th century, however, the middle class grew to include people who rose from the lower class by bettering themselves economically, including small-business owners, merchants, professionals, bureaucrats and government workers, professors and teachers, and white-collar workers. The greatest portion of the population consists of the politically powerless lower class. Its members are poorly educated and do not have adequate housing, health care, or sanitation. Those who have jobs are low-paid manual laborers. Few of the benefits of economic growth have reached the poor. Rural areas have an agricultural system in which the wealthy elite owns estates.
This system keeps members of the lower class in a kind of bondage as field workers. In the cities the creation and expansion of a labor movement has resulted in some improvements for workers, but working conditions remain substandard, and wages and living standards are low. "Colombia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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