Uruguay has too many jobs, too few takers

Jan. 21, 2011 at 5:15 PM
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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Most Latin American countries are struggling to find jobs for their citizens, in Uruguay a booming economy is creating more jobs than it is possible to fill with the country's limited human resources.

Uruguay's unemployment rate is at an all-time low of 6.1 percent, which would be music to the ears of most government planners. In Uruguay, the low unemployment is worrying government economists and human resources development agencies and companies.

The Latin American country has staged a remarkable recovery since the economic downturn began. In the first years of the downturn Uruguay coped with high unemployment -- up to 20 percent and about as bad as that in Spain at the time.

Spain stumbled during and after the crisis and now is a major financial headache for the European Union. In contrast, Uruguay bounced back and last reported a growth rate of 6.5 percent, which helped reduce its jobless rate from two-digit figures to current 6.1 percent.

In contrast, rampant unemployment, endemic underemployment and informal economies worth tens of billions of dollars were cited in an International Labor Organization report on Latin American job markets. Although Uruguay is still struggling through a poverty reduction program, the shortage of suitable personnel to fill new vacancies for skilled jobs has highlighted the imbalance.

The country is facing rising immigration from neighboring countries. Recent surveys indicated that nationals of other regional countries, including Argentina, aspired to live and work in Uruguay

Analysts said the low unemployment ratio posed major risks to Uruguay's booming economy, from its impact on productivity to inflationary pressures as employers opted to pay higher wages and offer more perks to retain employees.

Officials said the industrial sector would have immediate needs for several thousand workers as Uruguay plans to build a new pulp mill and develop new mines.

The government also wants to encourage Uruguayans living abroad to return home. Thousands of Uruguayans are trapped in the Spanish recession after they migrated there during the last construction boom.

The government is also considering plans to realign the national curriculum to prepare youth for careers beyond medicine, law and humanities courses. Although Uruguay foresees its need for medical professionals will increase exponentially as the population grows, economic planners want more students to go into technical, technological and industrial professions.

The government also foresees a growing need for English-speakers among new graduates in different professions as Uruguay expands its export markets beyond the Spanish-speaking regions in the Americas and Europe.

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