Jobs rise, but poverty a constant issue in S. America, says ILO

Jan. 20, 2011 at 2:06 PM
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SANTIAGO, Chile, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean created new jobs in 2010 but left many of the newly employed worse off because of quality of employment in the post-crisis conditions, analysis of U.N. data indicated.

The recovery in the region was patchy, with some of the resource-rich nations failing to perform as expected and falling behind others, the most notable example being Venezuela, whose economy shrank for the second consecutive year.

Although unemployment fell overall the return to new jobs wasn't as rewarding as before the 2008-09 economic downturn, statistics from the International Labor Organization showed.

Regional job patterns were one of the key topics when the ILO had its regional American-Caribbean meeting in December, attended by representatives of 35 countries of the Americas and the Caribbean region.

"The fall in unemployment is good news and clearly demonstrates both the capacity of countries to tackle the crisis and the speed of recovery of their economies," said ILO Director General Juan Somavia, who reported on the job situation at the Santiago meeting.

"The challenge today is the quality of jobs, in other words, making progress toward decent work," he said.

Labor ministers, government representatives and leaders of organizations of employers and workers attended the conference as ILO acknowledged economic recovery was having some effect.

The data, however, indicated that job creation had done little to confront one of the region's biggest challenges -- rampant poverty and shocking income disparities in countries praised worldwide as Latin America's emerging markets, analysts said.

Urban unemployment rate in Latin America and the Caribbean was 7.4 percent at the end of 2010, below the level of 8.1 percent for 2009 but almost the same as the 2008 level of 7.3 percent.

"If we look beyond the unemployment rate, we face the challenge of improving productivity and wages, reducing informality, extending social protection coverage and tackling inequalities," said Somavia, in a reference to the region's parallel underground economies that regularly deprive governments of tax revenues and workers of fair job terms.

He said, "Not only is it important to create more jobs, it is also important to ensure that these are quality jobs."

Although formal sector jobs rose 4.6 percent those in the "informal sector business" increased at a faster pace of 7.2 percent.

The ILO says government policies aimed at combating effects of the downturn have moderated job losses in the region. Amid signs of recovery, with economic growth estimated at above 5 percent for 2010, the governments' efforts to keep generating more and better jobs was being put to the test, ILO said.

"The reality is that economies may improve but unless people have decent work and sufficient incomes, recovery will be neither real nor sustainable. A demand for labor is needed in order to fuel growth," said Somavia.

ILO wants governments to promote small enterprises, which it says are the greatest generators of jobs. Women still lag behind and overall unemployment rate for women remains 40 percent higher than that for men.

Brazilian government figures show 2.52 million jobs were created in 2010. Brazil's buoyant economy contrasts with one of the highest income disparities in its society and continued mushrooming of slums side by side urban modernization.

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