As an economist, large-scale housing surveys fascinate me. As someone who supports British companies looking into Latin American markets, mainly through market research, I find it amazing just how important it is to really grasp how people live in your target markets – either out of cultural curiosity or because you sell, say, mattresses, furniture, or relevant services. I find that having some basic knowledge of how people live will also help you build relationships – don’t assume people own a car, don’t assume people have a dishwasher… but don’t assume they don’t have a toilet just because they live in Latin America! (yes, I’ve been asked that before)

Take Uruguay, where I live, as an example. El Observador, one of the main papers in the country, has summarised the results of a recent national survey. Let me pick a few to discuss here.


First of all, 57.4% of Uruguayans own the property they live in (or have some claim to ownership). This means that if you are looking to tap into the rental market, you have about 40% of the market to work with, as is the case with iDomicilio, an app that helps landlords manage their rental properties. One thing that has surprised me over the last five years back in Uruguay is the number of people I come across who don’t own their property but don’t rent either, something very uncommon in the UK, where I used to live. 21.3% of people in Uruguay, according to these latest figures, occupy their home with permission (so more often than not, they live in a relative’s or friend’s house and don’t pay “rent”).

83.5% of Uruguayans own a washing machine and 70% own a computer (I know that many people in the UK would expect this number to be a lot lower!). If you manufacture microwaveable ready meals, you’ll find it interesting to know that 65.7% of Uruguayans own a microwave oven.

More interesting to me, is that only 3.8% of Uruguayans own a dishwasher – I am one of them (best present ever, from my mum) and I find dishwasher tables awfully expensive here (miss you, Fairy). Can’t more Uruguayans afford dishwashers? My guess is that the ones that are better off rely on paid manual labour for this task (a maid or “empleada doméstica” – and there is room to believe that our very rigid labour market will lead to an increase in the ownership of dishwashers over time…

Around 44.8% of Uruguayans own a car, which means there is a lot of room for growth here. A third of the population own motorcycles.

On the toilet question, 97.8% of Uruguayans have access at home to a private toilet, if you were wondering…

Beyond these stats, let me recommend you this wonderful book that illustrates in revealing pictures the socio-economic differences in housing in Uruguay (the country in Latin America with the lowest income inequality, by the way). Beyond the stats, the realities of people is what really matters. And they there are good reasons for them to matter to your export strategy, too.


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