2008 Labour Overview. Latin America and the Caribbean.

Urban unemployment declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2008 in Latin America and the Caribbean, but the international crisis brought to an end the positive trend and it is estimated that in 2009 the number of unemployed persons could increase by between 1.5 and 2.4 million individuals, the ILO said today as it presented the new edition of its report, Labour Overview.

The 2008 Labour Overview for Latin America and the Caribbean is special. This edition provides evidence of the effects of an unprecedented international crisis that has cast a shadow over the global economy and is reflected in the employment situation in the region. Employment will be a challenge in 2009. As ILO Director-General, Juan Somavia stated,“The ILO’s message is realistic, not alarmist” with respect to this situation.

It should be stressed that this crisis is not hitting the region at a bad time. The region has experienced several years of favourable economic growth, which has had a direct impact on the employment situation. The 2008 Labour Overview indicates that unemployment diminished for the fifth consecutive year, permitting Latin America and the Caribbean to reach unemployment rates not seen since 1992.

The decrease in the urban unemployment rate, from 8.1% to an estimated 7.4% for 2008, occurred in a context of 4.6% GDP growth in the region. The 2008 Labour Overview also reports that real wages have increased, although modestly. In addition, it notes that gaps in unemployment by sex and age persist in the region, which remain unfavourable to women and youth. The report also points to the continuing decent work deficit. Statistics on informal employment, which includes workers in the formal and informal sectors, indicate that nearly six of every 10 urban employed individuals worked in informal employment in2007 among selected countries with available information.