In an era of radical transformation, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) confront increasing uncertainty as they manage their resources. At least 25 million active job seekers were unable to find work at the end of 2016 and were joined by an additional 1.3 million in 2017 (ECLAC-ILO, 2018). Chronic underemployment, high levels of youth unemployment coupled with informal, causal and cyclical employment are linked to a demand deficit, low capital formation, surplus labour and weak economic recovery. The region’s capacity to implement sustainable changes, as well as to navigate risks in order to transition to a state of prosperity has been slow. While unemployment is admittedly a global issue, the related factors are heterogeneous, as they are both region and country-specific. Unemployment deserves to be tackled along these specific, evidence-based lines as joblessness reflects economic health and problematic execution of a development model.

A direct correlation has been made between environmental degradation on the business cycle and unemployment in the LAC region which has relied heavily on natural resource extraction to drive its economic activity. A transition from fossil fuels to sustainable and renewable energy, waste management and remanufacturing hold new promise of employment with a starting projection of 1 million jobs. Similarly, a proposed circular economy model prioritizing the reuse, repair, recycling and shared use of goods shows a net total of 4.8 million jobs by 2030. Further, conservation and organic agriculture models are more preferred as they provide sustainable alternatives, extend value chains and help to distribute the use of human capital. Are these enough to reduce present unemployment though?

Greening the economy presents an additional revenue stream through which the LAC may attract direct foreign and impact investments and thus, generate new employment opportunities. That said, the benefits of innovation, diversification, small and medium enterprise development, open markets and international trade, will remain unattainable to active job seekers without the proper engagement frameworks, national reform, commitment and service inputs from key change agents such as: governments, private sector, financial institutions, and NGOs. It is perhaps why the International Finance Cooperation (IFC)’s agenda in the LAC region has focused on infrastructure projects linked to renewable and sustainable energy, access to finance, education and training. Public-private partnerships must share the responsibilities and lessen the burden of risk traditionally borne by regional governments with already limited resources and expertise. Green jobs require job seekers to retool with new, requisite skills. Entrepreneurial activity even among the jobless is dependent on the right incentives, as well as access to basic financial products.

Tackling joblessness is a complex balancing act between a core group of players. It is for this reason that integrated approaches to advocacy, social mobilization, social and behavioural change are so critical. Reducing unemployment requires the region to build workforce resilience and to create a culture of lifelong learning, as it explores sustainable opportunities across industries and dissemination of this awareness among all stakeholders. 


Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Office for the Southern Cone of Latin America of the International Labour Organization. (2018). Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean. (No.19). Retrieved from: https://www.cepal.org/en/publications/44186-employment-situation-latin-america-and-caribbean-environmental-sustainability-and

IFC in Latin America and the Caribbean (Webpage). Retrieved from: https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/region__ext_content/IFC_External_Corporate_Site/latin+america+and+the+caribbean

International Labour Organisation (ILO). (2018). World Employment Social Report: Trends 2018. Geneva: International Labour Office. Retrieved from: https://www.ilo.org/global/research/global-reports/weso/2018/WCMS_615594/lang–en/index.htm

International Finance Coorporation. (2015). IFC’s role in Agriculture Finance. Presented at AgriFin Forum. Retrieved from: https://www.agrifinfacility.org/resource/ifcs-role-agriculture-finance

World Bank Data Bank Jobs Database. Global data on individuals, firms and business environments (dataset last updated on 1/30/2019.) Retrieved from: https://databank.worldbank.org/data/source/jobs#advancedDownloadOptions

Salazar-Xirinachs, J. (2017, May 24). More than 26 million unemployed in Latin America and the Caribbean: the need for new engines of growth [Web log post]. Retrieved from: https://iloblog.org/2017/05/24/more-than-26-million-unemployed-in-latin-america-the-need-for-new-engines-of-growth/


Candice Sankarsingh designs digital and non-digital learning environments and products to motivate and improve human performance. She especially likes working in new knowledge areas and non-traditional, development contexts.