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ECLAC: Despite progress, 7 out of every 10 households in Latin America do not reach minimum levels of simultaneous social and labor inclusion

The United Nations regional organization presents a new study in the framework of the Second Meeting of the Regional Conference on Social Development, which begins tomorrow in Montevideo, Uruguay.

23 October 2017|Press Release

In the last 15 years, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have made progress by adopting policies and programs that enable them to tackle the dual challenge of social and labor inclusion of the population, but these gains are not enough to achieve development with equality and sustainability, and there is a risk of rollbacks in the current context of low growth, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) indicated today.

This is one of the main conclusions of the document Linkages between the social and production spheres: Gaps, pillars and challenges, which will be officially presented by the organization’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, during the Second Meeting of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which will begin this Wednesday, October 25, 2017, in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Upon examining household surveys from 17 Latin American countries for the 2002-2015 period, ECLAC concludes that “fewer than 3 in 10 households in Latin America are in a situation of dual inclusion, that is to say, minimum levels of simultaneous social and labor market inclusion.”

The concept of dual social and labor inclusion refers, on the one hand, to universal access to education, health and social protection, as well as to basic infrastructure (energy, drinking water and sanitation), and, on the other, to decent work, meaning quality employment, paid in decent conditions, with access to rights and to social protection. This new methodological approach seeks to complement the measurements that the Commission has traditionally carried out in terms of poverty and income inequality in the region.

In the document, ECLAC underscores that, as a simple average of countries in the region, the percentage of households with minimum levels of dual inclusion increased from 20.4% in 2002 to 29.2% in 2014, but slipped to 28.6% in 2015; meanwhile, the percentage of households in a situation of dual exclusion fell from 44.1% to 33.0% between 2002 and 2014, rising to 33.3% in 2015.

“In absolute terms, 56.5 million households (a total of 172.5 million people) had achieved those minimum levels of dual inclusion in 2015, while 39.2 million households (145.6 million people) were in dual exclusion in the same year,” the text indicates.

The report that will be presented in Uruguay verifies different barriers to social and labor inclusion, associated with the socioeconomic, gender, ethnic-racial, territorial and age-related inequalities experienced by people. All of these dimensions constitute the structuring axes of the social inequality matrix in the region.

“Dual inclusion is still a distant reality for the vast majority of the rural population. This stems from lack of access to basic infrastructure, low levels of education and lack of labor protection,” ECLAC warns in the text. The percentages of dual inclusion are also much lower in the indigenous and Afro-descendant population than in the rest of the population, it adds.

Furthermore, the document states that the world of work is being dramatically altered by rapid technological changes, greater complexity in global value chains, environmental challenges and some demographic trends such as migration and the aging of the population, which requires that governments, the private sector and trade-union organizations have the ability to anticipate and adapt.

ECLAC sustains that it is essential for countries to have good information systems on the productive structure and labor markets as well as effective intermediation services regarding the workforce and its qualifications. The role of educational systems, especially technical and vocational education, is key in this sense.

It is also necessary to expand and strengthen social protection systems and spaces for dialogue and negotiation among stakeholders in the world of work to mitigate the possible negative effects of these changes on employment and on people’s rights and to distribute their benefits more equitably.

“The more than 162 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29 in Latin America and the Caribbean have an essential role to play in productive change and sustainable development,” according to the study, which also calls for strengthening social policies throughout the life cycle, with a focus on childhood, adolescence and youth.

In addition, as a way to orient countries on designing policies, ECLAC makes a broad analysis of the social aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by the international community in 2015. Utilizing the concept of the “extended social pillar,” the organization verifies that all the SDGs – not just those with explicit social targets – have clear implications for the region’s social development.

"Achieving the objectives of an equality-centered agenda to the year 2030 will require a change in the style of development along with economic, industrial, social and environmental policies that are aligned with progressive structural change," the Commission emphasizes.

Sustainable development is not achievable if the “social footprint” of the current development model persists or expands, meaning the high levels of poverty, inequality, the deficits in decent work, a lack of social protection and the violation of the population’s rights, the organization concludes.