2002 Labour Overview

The world of work in Latin America and the Caribbean today faces a crisis of a depth unheard of in the past quarter of a century. A series of external factors, particularly the slowdown in growth of the most industrialized economies, the drop in prices for some of the region’s main commodity exports, and the recession in Argentina, whose effects have spread beyond the countries of the Southern Cone, have pushed the average annual urban unemployment rate upward, to around 9.3% by the end of 2002, and driven more workers into informal sector employment.

For 2002, the region’s GDP growth rate is expected to fall by -0.8%, while ILO projections indicate that the region’s GDP should grow 3% in 2003, thus permitting the region’s urban unemployment to drop to 8.6%, still very high, but closer to rates achieved in the last years of the previous decade. No symmetrical effect in terms of pushing down the decent work deficit should be expected, however. The region needs to grow by at least 4% annually if a rise in both unemployment and lack of social protection is to be avoided.

The experiences garnered from frequent crises in the past indicate that in periods of economic growth or boom the labour market’s basic variables recover more slowly than the pace at which they deteriorate at times of contraction or recession.