Labour Overview for Latin America

A quarter century of tracking labour markets in Latin America and the Caribbean

The ILO’s Labour Overview for Latin America and the Caribbean marks its 25th anniversary this month. The annual report tracks unemployment and other labour market indicators, and highlights decent work deficits that need to be tackled.

Article | 20 December 2018
LIMA (ILO News) – For a quarter of a century, the Labour Overview for Latin America and the Caribbean has been tracking the ups and downs of the region’s labour markets, pointing to issues that need urgent attention, such as youth unemployment and high informality rates.

The annual report looks closely at employment, unemployment and participation rates, but also at wage levels and the quality of jobs.

The anniversary of the report comes at a time when the ILO is gearing up to kick off its Centenary celebrations in January 2019.

From its very first issue, the Labour Overview – called Panorama Laboral in Spanish – has kept a close focus on the huge number of people working in the informal sector – often in vulnerable, low income work – a situation that remains true to this day.

A recent ILO estimate shows that some 140 million workers – close to half the workforce – are in the informal economy.

For years, the report has also warned of alarming rates of youth unemployment, continuing gender inequalities at the workplace and shortcomings in social security coverage.

The latest Labour Overview, issued in December 2018, shows that one in five young people – aged 14 to 25 – is unemployed, and that the unemployment rate is three times higher for youth than for adults.

Although the labour participation rate for women has increased over the years to just over 50 per cent, it remains far lower – by more than 20 percentage points – than the rate for men. The unemployment rate is 1.4 times higher for women than men.

Throughout its existence, the report has also highlighted the region’s low productivity, which weighs heavily on labour market outcomes. The region needs to "face the structural gaps of low productivity, and lack of development and productive diversification," the then Regional Director of the ILO, José Manuel Salazar, warned in 2017.

In the years since the Labour Overview was first published, the region has experienced several crises that had a major impact on labour markets, including the 1994-1995 Mexican peso crisis, also known as the "Tequila Effect", and, most recently, the 2008 financial crisis.

With only 24 pages, the 1994 issue was far less comprehensive than today’s reports, which run at some 130 pages. But it did provide a succinct and unprecedented overview of the labour situation in the region.

“The Labour Overview was a pioneer in generating and disseminating knowledge about the structure and functioning of the heterogeneous and extremely unequal labour market" in the region, said Ricardo Infante, former Director of the ILO Office in the Southern Cone, who coordinated the report in its first decade.