GUATEMALA, June 28, 2012- Opportunities for badly-needed well paying jobs in Central America can be significantly increased by improving the region’s education system, generally ranked at the low-end of the scale when compared with other regions of the world, including Latin America.
Central America’s employment gap is growing, both in terms of the number and quality of jobs available. This perpetuates a vicious cycle of unemployment and low wages –especially among youth—at a time when Central America faces sluggish economic growth and the threat of a new crisis originating in the Eurozone.
These are just some of the conclusions of the “Better Jobs in Central America” study, which has analyzed the region’s labor market with a view to helping create more and better jobs.
A quick snapshot of people’s views confirms the report findings. Elsa Cáceres’s experience is typical. “You don’t earn much. They pay very little,” she says, adding that there are few sources of employment close to where she lives, in Tonacatepeque, El Salvador. Practically the only opportunity available is low-paid domestic work in homes far away, she says. And as a result, much of what domestic workers earn is spent on the bus fare.
Moisés González, for his part, works as a farmer. Needed to work in the fields ever since he was a young boy, he never went to school. Today, his children, ages 18, 17 and 14, have followed in his footsteps: “They are working now; they couldn’t go to school. They work with me on the farm,” he says.
Currently in Central America, most jobs are in the informal sector or in traditional, low-productivity sectors such as manufacturing, services and agriculture. Moreover, these jobs are usually performed by low-wage workers with little education.
After making significant strides to achieve macroeconomic stability, stimulate foreign trade and attract increased foreign investment, Central American countries now face the challenge of generating more and better jobs. The region needs to create more high-productivity jobs that have highly-skilled workers, but above all jobs which can break the cycle of poverty and contribute to sustained economic growth.