Lessons from Latin Americas neo-liberal experiment: An overview of labour and social policies since the 1980s
Introducing the six country studies that follow, this analytical overview shows that the
social and labour policies inspired by the Washington Consensus – implemented across
much of Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s – consistently failed to deliver the
expected improvements. Labour flexibilization, decentralization of collective bargaining,
pension privatization and other measures to increase market provision of welfare
typically resulted in growing informality, widening inequalities and shrinking social
protection coverage, while also failing to stimulate employment growth. But the lessons
have been learned: many such policies have recently been reconsidered and there
are signs that a more balanced policy approach may be emerging in Latin America.
KEYWORDS: LABOUR POLICY; LABOUR FLEXIBILITY; SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM; SOCIAL
POLICY; TREND; ARGENTINA; BOLIVIA; BRAZIL; CHILE, MEXICO; URUGUAY.
From social protection to vulnerability: Argentinas neo-liberal reforms of the 1990s
Marta NOVICK, Miguel LENGYEL and Marianela SARABIA
This article examines the neo-liberal reforms introduced in Argentina in the 1990s,
focusing on labour policies and their consequences for labour market dynamics and
the welfare of households. To put this period in historical context, the authors first
provide a brief summary of the strategies applied both during the preceding importsubstitution
phase and in the aftermath of the political, economic and social crisis of
2001–02. The latter, in effect, served as the tipping point for the emergence of a new
set of social and economic policies aimed at promoting social cohesion and inclusion
KEYWORDS: LABOUR POLICY; LABOUR MARKET; LABOUR RELATIONS; LABOUR FLEXIBILITY;
SOCIAL SECURITY; SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM; SOCIAL TREND; ARGENTINA.
Between reform and inertia: Bolivias employment and social protection policies over the past 20 years
Bolivia entered a new stage in its history: a period of ambitious political and economic
reform aiming to transcend the neo-liberal development model in place since
1985 and to renew the State on the basis of its new Constitution, drawn up in 2008.
Against this background, this article examines changes in labour law and social protection
during the 1980s and 1990s and takes stock of the challenges of implementing
a development strategy focusing on full employment and equity.
KEYWORDS: UNEMPLOYMENT; LABOUR FLEXIBILITY; SOCIAL POLICY; SOCIAL SECURITY
REFORM; PENSION SCHEME; POVERTY ALLEVIATION; BOLIVIA.
What Brazil learned from labour flexibilization in the 1990s
The debt crisis of 1981–83 changed the course that Brazil’s social and labour policy
had followed from the 1930s to the 1970s. The social and labour protection systems
built up over those five decades – in conjunction with urbanization, industrialization
and the rise of wage employment – were gradually dismantled. The neo-liberal policies
adopted, however, failed to generate sufficient economic growth and brought
worsening unemployment and job insecurity instead. Since the end of 2002, Brazil
has been turning away from its “neo-liberal society” project.
KEYWORDS: SOCIAL POLICY; EMPLOYMENT POLICY; EMPLOYMENT FLEXIBILITY; BRAZIL.
Change in the Chilean social model
Chile modernized its social model in two stages characterized by different strategies:
developmentalism (1924–73) and the Washington Consensus (1973–2008). In the first
stage, the State pursued both social policies of universal coverage and land reform,
while also building up the country’s economic and institutional infrastructure. After
the 1973 military coup, some public services were dismantled and privatized, and the
labour movement was suppressed. Since the end of the dictatorship in 1990, resistance
to state regulation and an anti-labour bias have persisted, albeit to a diminishing
degree due to advances in democratization and, latterly, the current world economic
KEYWORDS: LABOUR POLICY; LABOUR MARKET; EMPLOYMENT; SOCIAL SECURITY; PENSION
Persistence of an exclusionary model: Inequality and segmentation
in Mexican society
María Cristina BAYÓN
Beginning in the 1980s, Mexico’s social and labour policies took a neo-liberal turn
which exacerbated inequalities, poverty and social exclusion. The change of policy
course that has occurred over the past decade has so far failed to bring about a critical
review of the country’s economic model and its social consequences. The role of the
State has been systematically cut back; social services have been outsourced to
the market; and informal, family-based social protection has gained ground. Mexico’s
social model has thus been reduced to a system that is almost exclusively concerned
with protection for those living in extreme poverty.
KEYWORDS: SOCIAL POLICY; SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM; POVERTY ALLEVIATION;
PROMOTION OF EMPLOYMENT; MEXICO.
Assessment of a hybrid reform path: Social and labour policies in Uruguay, 1985-2005
Pablo ALEGRE and Fernando FILGUEIRA
Since Uruguays return to democracy in 1985, a shift in economic and social policy has radically changed the country. The outcomes have been shaped by adjustment to international circumstances by default, stop-go market reforms and the inconsistent pace and content of reforms. Unlike other countries in the region, Uruguay has not followed a resolutely neo-liberal course, but rather a hybrid one. The end result has been a liberal labour regime coupled with a three-dimensional social policy balancing the market, the old corporatist welfare state and the new welfare state targeting specific beneficiaries.
KEYWORDS: LABOUR POLICY; LABOUR MARKET; EMPLOYMENT; SOCIAL POLICY; SOCIAL
REFORM; SOCIAL SECURITY; TREND; URUGUAY.