The Decent Work Pilot Programme in Panama has focussed on the challenge to create productive employment and reduce poverty in a small and increasingly open economy. Obstacles for growth in Panama include insufficient investment, but also falling labour productivity and hence declining competitiveness in almost all sectors. Informality has been spreading rapidly during the last decade. Poverty in Panama is intimately linked to unemployment and informality as well as to structural inequalities affecting women and indigenous peoples.
The Programme seeks to demonstrate that inclusive growth can be realised by including employment, poverty reduction and equality goals into broader economic and social policies and investment strategies. It addresses the growing problem of unemployment and persistently high levels of poverty by combining a medium- to long-term vision and strategy with concrete proposals for immediate action.
The Programme relies on a combination of policy analysis and broadly based dialogue on policy alternatives and choices. A wide range of inter-related policy fields were considered including economic policies, employment, public investment, industrial development and exports, labour markets, human resources development in key sectors, gender dimensions, basic needs, incomes and wages.
For the first time, it has been possible to sustain a process of constructive social dialogue around a common agenda. The programme has been successful in fostering national ownership across the political spectrum, including employers' and workers' organisations, as well as at the local level.
Concrete outcomes of policy dialogues to date include the initiation of a US$200 million employment-intensive investment programme. An agreement was also reached on the basket of goods to be used as the basis for the minimum wage determination. Other policy areas are still being discussed such as the extension of social protection to the informal economy, measures to increase productivity at enterprise and sectoral levels, programmes to promote gender equality and equality among peasant and indigenous communities.