ILO: Seeking to improve employment in the Latin American chemical industry

Representatives of seven countries gathered in Lima for the first tripartite meeting convened to address the challenges of decent work in this sector. The Latin American region accounts for 5% of global chemical industry sales.

News | 16 July 2015
Lima – The ILO gathered in the Peruvian capital tripartite representatives from seven countries for the first meeting held in Latin America on the challenges of employment in the chemical industry, a key economic sector generating sales valued at about US$157 billion in the region.

Representatives of governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela attended the meeting that ended today, and took part in sessions on sharing of experiences and analysis of common labour challenges in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.

“We are talking about a sector that is a major source of employment and which can continue growing as a provider of decent work opportunities”, said Gerardina González, ILO Deputy Regional Director for Latin American and the Caribbean, at the opening session.

The chemical industry generates sales valued at around US$3,400 billion worldwide, a huge business of which Latin America’s share reaches 4.6 per cent of the total, according to international statistics quoted in a document prepared by ILO’s Sectoral Policies Department.

“Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico are among the top 30 major chemical producing countries in the world”, adds the background document prepared for the meeting.

The term ‘chemical industry’ includes the manufacture of chemicals and chemical products; pharmaceuticals, medicinal chemicals and botanical products for pharmaceutical use; and rubber and plastics products.

Topics discussed included the impact of economic slowdown on employment in general and the creation of decent work in the industry in particular, the challenges posed by persistent informality, value chains in the industry and the effects of company mergers and acquisitions.

The tripartite representatives had the opportunity to share experiences on a variety of topics including employment, wages and working conditions. Furthermore, they discussed current challenges related to the role of social dialogue in reaching consensus and moving forward in areas such as collective bargaining.

Another key issue discussed in Lima was the need for training of workers. “The chemical industry in Latin America has been suffering from a chronic shortage of skilled workers”, stated Gerardina González.

“The chemical industry has strategic importance in many economies and this is largely due to the fact that it is a key source of direct and indirect employment. And, a large number of these jobs are formal”, added the ILO Deputy Director.

The meeting held this week in Peru is a follow-up to global meetings that took place in 2011 and 2013 aimed at promoting decent and productive work in the chemical industry.