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  HOME | Latin America (Click here for more)

Tech Revolution Bringing Big Challenges for Latin America, Regional ILO Director Says

SAN JOSE – A world that is changing more and more quickly pushed by new technologies and paradigms in all areas is bringing big challenges in the labor and educational spheres in Latin America, a region that is being called upon to evolve to take advantage of its demographic wealth.

Jose Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, the International Labour Organization’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, discussed the issue in an interview with EFE in the Costa Rican capital, where he is participating in several events.

“The future of work is key, because that’s what’s going to determine whether there are more and better jobs for young people. We much see to it that growth includes the young, because otherwise it would be a waste of talent ... (for) Latin American societies and a breeding ground for problems of criminality,” he said.

ILO figures show that unemployment among young people in Latin America was 18.7 percent in 2016, three percent more than the previous year, and that 50 percent of those who have jobs work in the informal sector.

There are some 114 million young people of working age in the region, of which 20 million are neither in school nor work and some 54 million are participating in the labor force, a “demographic bonus” that is not being taken advantage, according to the ILO official.

“Latin America ... (has) an advantage that can be realized only if young people get training, get schooling and have enough jobs ... At this time, there is more waste than use of talent and that is the big challenge,” he said.

Salazar-Xirinachs said that the region must adapt more quickly to technological changes so as not to be left behind, and he added that it’s necessary to strengthen the institutions that can train and shape human talent – inculcating creativity, teamwork and leadership – to meet the new needs, especially in jobs linked to technology.

Another key requirement is for the region “to reinvent and rethink” its training centers to provide the technical tools to young people within an integrated model along with creativity, business sense and entrepreneurship so that they can start their own businesses, he said.

“Our educational systems in Latin America (reflect) a model that was created 100 years ago to satisfy the classical industry of those times. Now, industry is digitalizing, roboticizing. There is a paradigm change in world production,” the ILO director said.

An ILO report released this month and based on a non-representative online survey of 1,544 young people in the region, revealed that optimism about the future exists among this group.

Three of every five young people view their future out to 2030 with much confidence, 61 percent believe that new technologies will affect their employment future, 59 percent feel that tech changes will be positive and 73 percent say that they will need ongoing training, but just 29 percent say that technology could replace them in their jobs.


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