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Economic Transformation and the Future of Work in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Economic Transformation and the Future of Work in Latin America and the Caribbean by Guillermo Beylis

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Following the so-called "Golden Decade" (2003-2013) of rapid development and strong improvements in social indicators, economic growth has stalled in Latin America and the Caribbean region (LAC). Today, the external environment no longer provides tailwinds to foster an economic rebound. Foreign direct investment has moderated, trade has slowed amid elevated tensions, financing conditions are tightening, and commodity prices are expected to remain flat in the short and medium term. The region therefore needs to find internal sources of growth and focus on a productivity-enhancing reform agenda.The report analyzes the structural transformation process in LAC and evaluates if the "premature de-industrialization" patterns observed in the data are a result of distortive policies or if they represent an efficient (i.e. growth maximizing) reallocation of resources responding to the underlying drivers of structural transformation. An important message of the report is that policy makers should not focus on sectoral size but rather on productivity growth. The emergence of new technologies--under the banner of the "4th Industrial Revolution"--suggests that opportunities for further industrialization or re-industrialization are likely to be limited in many developing countries.Looking forward, the region needs to develop a productivity agenda with a special focus on the services sector. Already the largest employer in the region with over 60 percent of the workforce, the services sector is expected to grow even further and play an increasingly crucial role as an input provider to the larger economy. In short, there is a need for a comprehensive set of service-sector oriented policies.The report concludes that three major economic forces are changing the nature of work and the demand for skills. First, the structural transformation process, in general, and the de-industrialization pattern observed for the economies in the region, in particular, imply that future job growth will occur mainly in the services sector. Second, the shift in economic structure is being accompanied by a transformation of the occupational structure within broad economic sectors. The importance of service occupations-those that produce intangible value added such as marketers, managers, designers--is increasing in all sectors of the economy. Third, as machines replace humans in carrying out simpler, more routine tasks, workers will have to adapt and perform a different set of tasks in the workplace. What may become more important as new automation technologies are adopted in LAC countries, is adult learning and re-training.

Author Biography

The World Bank came into formal existence in 1945 following the international ratification of the Bretton Woods agreements. It is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. The organization's activities are focused on education, health, agriculture and rural development, environmental protection, establishing and enforcing regulations, infrastructure development, governance and legal institutions development. The World Bank is made up of two unique development institutions owned by its 185 Member Countries. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) focuses on middle income and creditworthy poor countries and the International Development Association (IDA), which focuses on the poorest countries in the world.
Release date NZ
October 30th, 2019
Country of Publication
United States
World Bank Publications
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