Why is Latin America still far away from getting the jobs of the future?

07, October

The region is not implementing efficient strategies to develop skills such as curiosity, social awareness and ...

The region is not implementing efficient strategies to develop skills such as curiosity, social awareness and adaptability, which are key for long term employability.  

High youth unemployment rates and a growing number of people who neither work nor study show how the region is wasting the demographic bonus opportunity and, therefore, postponing it’s access to the employment of the future, said José María Salazar Xirinachs, regional director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for Latin America and the Caribbean.

A key strategy is to put knowledge into practice mostly by developing apprenticeships in companies. Even though this is not a new recommendation, most countries in the region do not even have one apprentice per 1,000 employees, said Salazar Xirinachs.

The share of participants in dual learning programs in Germany is 39 apprentices every 1,000 employees, in Switzerland 44, and in Austria 32, according to data from the ILO. Brazil is the only country in the region with a “higher” average: five apprentices every 1,000 employees.

Training is key as estimations show that people will go into the market looking for high wages having a medium skills level, and the scenery will be quite the opposite: you will need a high skills level to have a high income.

Salazar pointed out that economists called this phenomenon the “polarization of the labour market”, and the in order to get a competitive wage in the future people will need to adapt, reskill, and upskill, instead of keep doing what they do.

“It is necessary to develop skills that robots will not have, such as adaptability, creativity, curiosity, social awareness, as for every job that disappears, three other jobs that require these skills will be created”, added the expert.

By 2050, there will be 776 million people living in the continent. Around 20% of them will be elderly adults, and by 2100, these percentage will grow to 30%, which means 204 million people older than 60 years old, according to data from ECLAC.

“This is a continent with a longer life expectancy, so the demand of professionals specialized in care giving will be key”, pointed out Salazar Xirinachs.

There will be employment opportunities in positions linked to healthcare and economics (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, hospital services).  As regards the technological sector, the director claimed there might be “unemployment” as there is little variety of people with skills in advanced robotics, additive manufacture, genetics and bioprocesses that involve technology and digitalization. Smart products and factories, distributed manufacture, advanced robotics with 3D printing demand people with more sophisticated skills.

“These fields will generate lots of jobs, but Latin America is failing to respond due to a lack of dialogue and strategic vision”, concluded ILO’s General Director in Panama.