Latin American population grows old  

05, October

The future of work in Latin America and the Caribbean is conditioned by two major trends: the technological tsunami ...

The future of work in Latin America and the Caribbean is conditioned by two major trends: the technological tsunami that the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings along and the aging process of the population.

This is one of the conclusions of the document “The Future of Work in Latin America and the Caribbean: a great opportunity for the region?” which is the first of a set of papers developed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that aims at fostering the debate on how the region can make the most of opportunities and reduce the risks that come along with this issue.

“Despite there is a myth that states that we live in a young region, the truth is we are growing older faster than the rest of the world”, explained Carmen Pagés, Chief of the Labor Markets Division at the IDB.

“In France, the United Kingdom or the United States, the share of elderly adults over the entire population has doubled (from 10% to 20%) during an over 60 years period, while in countries such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico or Chile it will reach the same percentage in only two decades. Given this context, the welfare state must be revised, using technology as an ally”, said Pagés.

The region will not only witness a raise in the number of elderly adults, but also in the share of people who get to the fourth age (80 years and older). This is a key fact, as people will live beyond the third age, and therefore will need extra care.

According to the document, it seems likely that people will need to extend their working lives. This means that labor markets, which are currently hostile with workers over 50 years old, will need to adapt to provide working opportunities for this age group.

IDB estimations show that, in 2017, 7.7% of the Latin American population were people over 65 years old, and by 2050 the expected share will be 19.5%.

The opportunity that the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings along will depend on how transforming new technologies shall be, as well as on the rhythm in which governments, companies, and workers shall be able to adopt them.

Pagés believes that the future of work in the region is a reality under construction. The key will be in the actions taken to adopt the most promising technologies and on the investment made on people to keep up with such changes.

The infrastructure deficit and access to wireless services are urging challenges to address the future. In addition, governments in the region also face poor conditions in terms of financing and technical skills to design and carry out the necessary digital transformations.

Investments on relevant talent is another key variable.