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LATIN AMERICA
Slight reduction in unemployme
Cecilia Remón
2/14/2008
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Indigenous women and Afro-descendents continue to be the biggest targets of employment discrimination.

Jean Maninat, the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) regional director for the Americas, regards the results of the recently released Labor Overview 2007 for Latin America and the Caribbean, as “cautious optimism.”

According to the report, which examines the evolution of work and salaries in the region, the rate of urban unemployment lowered in the region for the fifth consecutive year, going from 9.1 percent in 2006 to 8.5 percent in 2007 in 15 of the region’s countries.

Though the ILO foresees a reduction of urban unemployment to 7.9 percent for 2008, Maninat reiterated the need to stay cautious regarding the “elevated volatility of the international economic situation that could cause a stagnation or recession.”

The report emphasizes the decent work deficit — understood as productive work with fair remuneration, access to social security and recognized labor rights — in which one of the principal issues is the persistence of informal unemployment, affecting 61.5 percent of urban inhabitants.

Likewise, it affirms that 39.2 percent of urban workers did not have health protection or pensions in 2006, which rose alarmingly for the case of unpaid employment, domestic service and independent workers.

One of the most worrying issues for the ILO is the persistence of the unemployment gap, concerning access to employment. The unemployment rate for women is 1.6 times greater than that of men, with the situation of indigenous and Afro-descendent women being much more severe.

“Women in these two groups have the worst statistics,” said Mónica Castillo, regional specialist in Decent Work, Information and Labor Analysis as well as coordinator for Labor Overview 2007.

Afro-descendants singled out
According to Castillo, “the wages per hour for indigenous Afro-descendent women represent only 39 percent of the wages earned by men who are neither indigenous nor Afro-descendents in the six countries studied [Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala and Uruguay, where there is a high population density of these groups].”

To combat this situation, Castillo signaled the need to “strengthen knowledge of these groups, improve statistics on indigenous and Afro-descendent women, carry out better studies on these groups in order to better understand what the problem is and allow the creation of adequate policies.”

“In the second term, to improve the application of agreements 100 [on equal pay] and 111 [on employment and work-place discrimination] and in the specific case of indigenous communities, agreement 169. In each there are specific references to the treatment of women,” she explained.

Finally, Castillo mentioned the “development of employment policies and programs that can improve the work situation of these vulnerable groups.”

The ILO’s Decent Work Agenda for the Hemisphere 2006-2015, approved in May 2006 and adopted by workers and employers organizations as well as governments in the region, proposes measures for the progressive elimination of work discrimination.

To achieve this objective, the ILO suggested to “increase knowledge on the magnitude and dimension of the discrimination problem in the job market, by advancing in the fulfillment of agreements 110 and 111 of the ILO, and reducing the existing barriers for the incorporation of women, indigenous and Afro-descendent communities as well as other discriminated peoples in the job market in unfair conditions.”

In its conclusions, the Labor Overview 2007 report mentions that while the regional gross domestic product has grown an average of 4.8 percent in the last five years — which has had a favorable impact on employment and, on a lesser scale, on real salaries — this progress is insufficient.

“High levels of informal employment persist as well as a lack of social protection, employment gaps due to gender, age and ethnic group, and labor rights are not effectively carried out,” states the report.


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