Argentina is one of the largest economies in South America. In recent years, the government has focused in promoting economic development along with social inclusion with the support of the World Bank.
Read More »
Q: What explains this lack of skills?R: A recent McKinsey global study demonstrated that 72% of educators surveyed felt that they had adequately prepared young people for the labor market, yet just 42... Show More +% of employers believed that recent graduates were adequately prepared. Compared with the other countries studied, the difference in perceptions was particularly marked in two Latin American countries (Mexico and Brazil).The exact causes of the lack of skills are not clear. But there are some theories. First, the quality of education: the skills acquired do not meet the standards or the needs of the labor market. Second, schools are only just beginning to change teaching practices to teach high-level cognitive skills, which are learned through active problem-solving, teamwork and project-based learning. Third, throughout the world, teaching socio-emotional skills has been left to the home environment. We recently completed a study which found that primary school is the ideal time to teach these skills, followed by high school (during turbulent adolescence).Q: How can we improve the link between universities and companies or organizations?R: That seems like a simple question but it actually poses many challenges in practice. We are seeing that employers’ organizations give better guidance to the education sector when they have an immediate interest in the process. In many developed countries, educators and universities form partnerships for research, implement student internships in the companies and share professionals when employers give classes at universities. Latin America has many opportunities to expand on these arrangements to ensure that universities are more present in companies and vice versa.Q: According to the ILO, youth unemployment is 13.9%. Additionally, six of every 10 Latin American youth can only find work in the informal sector. What can be done to improve this situation?R: Statistically, if we look at the number of youth who enter the labor market in a particular year, Latin American youth are no worse off than adults who change jobs. They make the transition at the same rate as adults. The high numbers appear to originate from the fact that too many people are looking for work at the same time; it takes time for the labor market to absorb them all. Of course, this varies by country. In some labor markets, such as that of Argentina, youth face long periods of unemployment. But so do adults. In that case, it is an overall employment issue rather than a specific problem of youth.Second, employment in the informal sector. It is quite easy to enter the informal sector, which provides opportunities to develop skills and the coveted job experience so often necessary for future employment. The statistics show that, over time, many young people “graduate” from the training received in the informal sector to move on to the formal sector. But not all youth reach this step and they remain in the informal sector for much longer. This situation is actually a reflection of a wider problem with labor market structures rather than with education quality, although these two concepts are related, of course. Show Less -
The next time you open your pantry or refrigerator, take a minute to list the foods stored there. Do you know who is responsible for getting those foods to your table? Contrary to what you may think, ... Show More +women contribute to at least half of food production worldwide.This is what experts call the “feminization of the field.” In Latin America and the Caribbean, between 8% and 30% of agricultural production is managed by women, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). But far from being a recent trend, this is a centuries-old reality that has only been recognized in the last few years. “In Latin America, women have always worked in agriculture, but they were never in charge of their farms like they were in other regions of the world,” said Barbara Coello, a rural economist specializing in gender and nutrition and a World Bank consultant. “These statistics only became available recently.”Women’s participation has become especially evident in Central America, where many male farmers migrated to the United States in search of better employment opportunities, leaving their spouses and children behind.Until very recently, it was thought that rural women who received funds from abroad – in Central America, remittances total an estimated US$15 billion annually– had abandoned farming. But that was not the case.“Migration is making the key role of women in agriculture increasingly visible,” according to the expert. She confirmed this during interviews in southeast Guatemala, where women reported having no choice but to continue farming to feed their families.To the extent that immigration has become riskier and more expensive, and male migrants spend longer periods away from their families, women in rural areas are taking a more active role in decision-making associated with agriculture. “There is widespread malnutrition among our children; we can reduce it by diversifying foods,” said Laura, a leader of a rural women’s organization in Guatemala.Although their household vegetable gardens do not contribute to expanding the agricultural sector, they do provide a reliable source of diverse foods during periods of instability or when markets are far from their homes.Discriminated Against on their Own LandAlthough this situation is more frequent where migration to other countries is commonplace, Latin American women are increasingly taking over to ensure the productivity of their lands.Chile leads the list of Latin American and Caribbean countries, with 30% of agricultural production in the hands of women, followed by Panama (29%), Ecuador (25 %), Haiti (25 %) and Nicaragua (23%). “My husband is only here on the weekends because he works in the city. I’m responsible for all of this [the rest of the week],” said Norma, looking at her more than 200 goats, which are in a pen she fashioned herself in Los Cardones, in northern Argentina.Despite some improvement, the farms managed by women tend to be smaller and less fertile. Additionally, women have less access to credit, technical assistance and training.This is particularly obvious in Guatemala. “Women have a shortage of manual labor,” said Coello, “and are discriminated against by day laborers, for whom the idea of having a female boss is still not part of the local culture.”In effect, in Latin America, four of every 10 rural women over age 15 do not have their own income. Nevertheless, they work hard every day, according to the FAO.Caretakers of Nutrition“The woman is the link between food and people,” said the expert. This was confirmed in a World Bank report, which found that women participate in all stages of the process, from producing to processing to selling foods.For example, women participate in every stage of livestock production, from caring for the animals to preparing and selling the animal products.Rural women play a key role in developing an agriculture that allows for improving food security in Latin America.This is a major issue given that in the region, millions of low-income families, particularly in rural areas, suffer from deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron, zinc and Vitamin A. This has serious consequences for health, survival and the optimal cognitive development of vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and children during the first 1,000 days of life.On the other hand, the poor rural population of the region has high rates of obesity, comparable to those of higher-income countries.This paradox is particularly evident in countries such as Guatemala, where the agricultural sector has reached sophisticated levels, contributing to 10.2% of GDP and approximately half of the country’s exports, but whose population has the third highest chronic malnutrition (stunted growth) rate in the world (54.5%).According to Coello, it is necessary to implement measures that can help women improve their agricultural yields, such as including them in agricultural and technical assistance services and increasing their access to credit, training, technology and agricultural inputs. Show Less -
A few months ago, Pamela, a 20-year-old from Mexico, dropped out of her last year of secondary school. She had too many absences due to family reasons and the school demanded that she study for eight ... Show More +more months in order to earn her degree.In the end, she decided to drop out because of time and money issues. Today she works at a restaurant and has just completed a secondary school certificate. She says that since she left school, her opinion about education has changed. “Your ideas start to change and you make more of an effort to study, to move forward,” says Pamela. “After all, your family is not going to keep supporting you forever.”Of every 100 students who enter primary school in Mexico, just 46 will complete upper secondary school. The graduation rate at this level in Mexico is 47%, below the Latin American average of 52%, and much lower than the average of 84% for OECD countries (the most developed in the world), according to a new World Bank study.Over the past 20 years in Mexico, school dropout rates have practically disappeared in primary school and have declined 66% in secondary school, but just 30% in upper secondary school.Less productivityWhile the country has made significant advances in expanding basic education coverage (more than 95%), many young people still drop out of upper secondary school. This trend also occurs in the rest of Latin America –school dropout rates are highest in secondary school. On average, one of every three Latin American youths never even enrolls in secondary school.Experts are concerned because the official age for attending upper secondary school – from 15 to 18 – coincides with a crucial phase of an individual’s development.“Having a large number of adolescent dropouts has important consequences. Leaving school early limits the skills that the new generations are bringing to the labor market, which affects current productivity levels,” according to the World Bank's Raja Bentaouet Kattan, one of the authors of the study.The consequences of not completing upper secondary school are not only academic, but also financial: if an individual does not complete this level, he cannot access higher education, which will negatively affect the salary he can earn.It is estimated that a Mexican with a higher education earns 3.5 times more than an individual who only completed secondary school. Additionally, there are differences in access to formal employment: the formal sector of the Mexican economy employs 37% of Mexicans who did not complete upper secondary school and 50% of those who did.Statistics also suggest that dropouts ages 15 to 18 face a greater risk of developing addictions in the future.Lack of interest“School dropout rates are higher in states with lower GDP per capita and higher levels of informality,” says Bentaouet Kattan, “which suggests that if the labor market does not offer opportunities for jobs with social benefits and other perks, there will be fewer incentives (for families) to continue to invest in education so that their children can complete secondary school.”In Latin America, the leading reason for dropping out of school is youth’s lack of interest. According to a survey carried out in eight countries, and which is mentioned in the World Bank study, the main cause for dropping out (32.2 percent of respondents) is a lack of interest and the belief that schooling does not provide useful or quality elements.The second reason is the economic situation – nearly 23% responded that it was the reason for leaving school. According to the survey, the third most common reason for dropping out was household obligations, pregnancy or child care whereas 14.5% of respondents left school because of work obligations.In Mexico, 43% of respondents left school for educational reasons, according to the 2010 National Youth Survey. Nearly 36% reported that they dropped out for economic reasons whereas 8% said they did so for personal reasons, such as marriage or pregnancy.A key factor in Mexico is the lack of satisfaction with secondary school education. In 2012, 42% of youth enrolled in secondary school said they believed that education was not helpful for finding a job.What can be done? “Based on the analysis, general recommendations are to continue to focus on secondary school education in Mexico, considering the challenge and what it entails,” says Bentaouet Kattan. Given that a variety of factors are associated with dropping out of school, he added that there is a need to adapt measures to each case since the problem is not the same in poor states as in states with higher income, for example.According to Bentaouet Kattan, international experiences suggest that it is better to implement a mix of strategies, such as focusing on youth at risk with special, individualized attention; implementing different curricular strategies, such as exposing young people to higher education to encourage them to complete secondary school; and providing vocational training, among others. Show Less -
In Brazil, a few kilometers from one of the most popular beaches among young Latin Americans, a group of twenty-somethings are living away from the discotheques, the surf and sand. Instead, they enjoy... Show More + good incomes, manage their own businesses and avoid the stresses of big city life.They were born on these lands and – unlike their parents, for whom the countryside was an unfortunate fate – these young people have found their true vocation in agriculture. What is even better, they have the opportunity to develop a long-term professional future although the workload is intense."Everything is more relaxed, starting with the clothes we wear,” says 25-year-old Jilson Vargas. He used to work in an office, but it involved a half-hour trip down a dirt road each way. “And I had to wear a suit and tie!” he exclaims.But Jilson’s life changed completely when the rural youth group he belongs to was finally able to buy the machinery needed to produce rattan. Rattan is used to make baskets and furniture.Neither he nor his wife, Thaise, wants to leave this place, which of course is connected to the country’s cellphone network. They know they are leaders in a new trend that appears to go against what is occurring in the region and the country, where 80% of the population lives in urban areas.The couple believes that it has become increasingly necessary to encourage young people to stay in the countryside. After all, it is up to them – and their children – to produce the agricultural raw materials used in all industries.Currently, three of every 10 Latin Americans depend on agriculture for survival. In countries such as Mexico and Peru, an estimated 20% of young people work in rural areas. In Brazil, more than a quarter of the rural population (eight million) is between the ages of 15 and 29.The dream of millennialsThe younger generation must also produce enough food to feed 9 billion mouths by 2050. It is a daunting challenge, which 23-year-old Josimar Sordi is happy to take on.For nearly a year before graduating with a degree in zoology, he had the opportunity to manage a small meat processing plant established by his family and two other families. The plant produces 20 different products that are sold on the regional market."This plant was my project and that of a cousin who died of leukemia at 23, a month before he could achieve his dream,” he says, visibly moved. “We worked at a cold-storage plant and talked endlessly about what our business would be like,” he added.His story evokes one of the characteristics found in the research on millennials – the generation that is now between the ages of 20 and 30 – and the labor market: competitiveness and the desire to advance quickly up the career ladder.As Josimar proudly says, the countryside offers many possibilities for the young entrepreneur, as long adequate conditions exist, beginning with infrastructure: roads, electricity, internet and cellphone networks."If the process of creating a business is expensive and takes a long time, young people are less willing to establish businesses. We also have to facilitate the processes to certify products and services,” says World Bank economist Diego Arias, who heads the Santa Catarina Rural Program.The program, a partnership between the World Bank and the state government, is exactly what has enabled entrepreneurs like Jilson and Josimar to make their lives in the countryside. Similar initiatives in Armenia, Cameroon, Malawi, Senegal and Sri Lanka have had encouraging results.A toast, with juice World Bank data demonstrate that investment in agriculture is not expensive considering the benefits to farmers: an increase in income associated with this activity is between two and four times more effective in reducing poverty than is growth in other sectors.With some investment and considerable persistence, the parents of Estevao (23) and Leonardo Ferrari (21) have prospered with just three hectares of land. After experimenting unsuccessfully with several crops, the family finally attended a grape-growing program organized by the mayor’s office in 2001."For our father, it was the last chance to do something to work here, for which reason he quickly developed and maintained the vineyard,” says Estevao. The fruit has adapted so well that in just three years, the family was not only able to sell grape in bulk, but juice as well.Since then, several programs (including SC Rural) have helped to increase the family production to 4,000 vines, to protect the grape from the cold and to send Leonardo to study enology in Cadiz, Spain. “Our dream is to produce wine,” the young man says.In the meantime, the brothers manage a shop where they sell their products, including grape juice. “It is popular among the young and among the health-conscious. Our objective is to market to that public,” says Leonardo.Like the Ferraris, who produce natural juice – not the beverages typical of urban parties – and who have swapped nightlife for an early professional life, there are many Brazilians who are discovering the pleasures of living and working far from the large cities. “Come and work with us,” jokes Estevao, referring to young people who are looking for job opportunities. Show Less -