Youth employment in Latin America

Unemployment and informality beset Latin American youth

Latin America’s 108 million young people face chronic problems when seeking a job at the start of their working lives. A new ILO study calls calls for the implementation of innovative and effective policies to counter this situation which causes discouragement and frustration.

News | 13 February 2014
LIMA (ILO News) - Latin America’s jobs-creating economic growth has not been strong enough in recent years to improve the employment outlook for young people trapped by unemployment and informality, the ILO said.

“We are faced with a political challenge that calls for a determination to apply innovative and effective policies to confront labour market precariousness,” said Elizabeth Tinoco, ILO’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, presenting a new report entitled Trabajo decente y juventud: políticas para la acción (Decent Work and Youth: Policies for Action).

"It is not surprising that young people take to the streets, as their lives are marked by discouragement and frustration because of lack of opportunities. This has consequences on social stability and even on democratic governance," Tinoco added.

The report, which compares data from 2005 to 2011, shows that at the end of this period, youth unemployment reached almost 14 per cent. Although the rate dropped 16.4 percentage points compared to 2005, workers aged 15 to 24 years are facing greater difficulty in finding a job, even more so in the case of quality jobs.

The youth unemployment rate remains twice as high as the overall rate and three times that of adults. In addition, young people represent 43 per cent of all the unemployed in the region. In the lower income group, the youth unemployment rate reached more than 25 per cent, while it is below 10 per cent in higher income sectors.

The report also shows that almost 6 in 10 young people who work are in informal employment, which generally involves low wages, job insecurity and lack of protection and rights.

Only 37 per cent of young people contribute to social health insurance, and 29.4 per cent to the pension system. Only 28.2 per cent of youth in employment have a written contract, as compared with 61 per cent for adults.

Of particular concern is the high number, about 21 million, of young people known as NEETs - not in employment, education or training.

About a quarter of these young people are seeking work but can’t find any. Twelve million of them, mostly women, do household chores and the remaining 4.6 million are neither working in the household nor looking for a job.

Meanwhile, the number of Young people who study full-time increased to 34.5 per cent in 2011 from 32.9 per cent in 2011.

“There is no doubt we have the best educated generation in history. For that reason we have to take appropriate measures to take better use their potential and give them the opportunity to start their working life on the right footing,” said Tinoco.