(21 May 2013) The average regional urban unemployment rate could drop by up to 0.2 percentage points to stand between 6.4% and 6.2% in 2013 - the lowest rate in recent decades - according to a new report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
In the new issue of the joint publication The employment situation in Latin America and the Caribbean, the two institutions indicate that the 3.5% economic growth expected for the region in 2013 should maintain the positive trends in labour indicators.
ECLAC and ILO underline that the 6.4% unemployment rate in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012 had been the lowest in recent decades, having fallen from 6.7% in 2011. This rate is impressive given the difficult labour situations experienced by other world regions.
"With respect to 2013, there is cautious optimism regarding the performance of the region's labour markets. If projections of 3.5% in the region's economic growth in 2013 are borne out, labour indicators should continue to gradually improve. This will bring new increases in real wages", according to Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, and Elizabeth Tinoco, Director of the ILO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, writing in the foreword to the publication.
According to the ECLAC and ILO report, last year the number of urban unemployed fell by around 400,000, on the back of relatively strong job creation. Nevertheless, they point out that around 15 million are still jobless in the region, and that labour indicator performance was not homogenous across the region: out of the 14 Latin American countries analysed, six saw their unemployment rate by at least 0.2 percentage points, while it remained stable in five and rose in three (Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Paraguay).
They add that the situation is clearly not as bright in the English-speaking Caribbean, where three of five countries with information available (Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago) saw unemployment rise between 2011 and 2012, taking the rate to a high of 14 years in Barbados and 16 years in Jamaica. The Bahamas was the only country to record a decrease in unemployment, which nevertheless remains high.
Furthermore, the gender gaps in labour market participation, unemployment and employment narrowed, albeit slightly; waged work rose by 3.5% and formal employment (with social protection) increased by around 4%; the hourly underemployment rate declined; and average wages rose.
Real minimum wages were up by 2.8% (versus 1.3% in 2011), albeit with wide differences between countries.
This issue of The employment situation also analyses the concept of decent work, progress in measurement and challenges for building a Decent Work Information System, 14 years after the concept was first formulated.
In terms of measuring decent work, the document explains that the main aim is to provide agents (government, workers and employers) with tools to assess each country's progress in respect of decent work. However, there have been some measurement and comparability problems - particularly in developing countries.
The organizations therefore state that it is not currently possible to establish a shared set of variables for measuring decent work in all countries, and suggest that countries make progress in measurement in accordance with the priorities they set, based on information that is available and can be generated in the future. However, it is vital to advance towards harmonization among countries, and for this task they can rely on technical support from ECLAC and ILO.
The agencies highlight the importance of some countries' contributions that have not only included paid work but also unpaid work and the use of the concept to illustrate gaps in terms of gender, ethnicity and territories.
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