Europe, Globe, Latin America, Uncategorized, United Kingdom, World

Being in employment is no guarantee of dignified living conditions

The prevalence of casual work in the labour market in Latin America and the Caribbean remains amongst the highest in the world, a recent report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has revealed.


Ivette Fernández


In accordance with the study “World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2019,” it is estimated that 53% of the working population in the region remains employed in casual work.

It is also the case that even in countries considered to have a medium-high or high income, this indicator exceeds 40%, as is the case in Argentina (47.2%), Brazil (46%), Chile (40.5%) and Mexico (53.4%).

The persistence of casual work in this area is one of the factors that contributes to the expanding indicators of multidimensional poverty, which is understood as a grouping of disadvantages across education, health, work, social security, housing and general standards of living.

20% of the region’s population is considered to have suffered from multidimensional poverty in 2014 as a result of this situation, which is felt to a greater degree in rural areas.

In some Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras where 70 to 80% of all employment is casual in nature, 50% of the population finds themselves affected by multidimensional poverty, described the report.

A well-known characteristic of casual work, the report elucidated, is its higher incidence among workers on the lower end of the pay scale.

Thus, in 2013, rates of casual employment exceeded 72% in the poorest 10% of the population, compared with less than 30% among the richest 10%.

In fact, the ILO elaborates on evidence that points to a simultaneous and self-perpetuating link between casual work, poverty and social exclusion, which ends up generating a vicious circle of inequality and deprivation across generations.

On the other hand, the persistently high rate of casual employment in the region reflects the fact that for many people this type of activity is the only route out of unemployment and poverty.

Nevertheless, hopes of escaping poverty never become a reality for the majority of casual workers since, the analysis warns, this situation is self-perpetuating. In practice, this type of work in most cases involves low wages and limited access to social welfare, family benefits and external credit.

Almost 65% of workers in the wholesale and retail sector, for example, are employed on a casual basis, although the occurrence noticeably differs between countries.

Whilst in Costa Rica it barely surpasses 20%, in Ecuador, for example, the figure is now in the region of 90%.

In the same way, the proportion of casual employment in the transport, warehouse and communication sectors varies from 10% in Uruguay to more than 90% in Ecuador once again.

Incidence of casual work is a little lower in the manufacturing sector, although it still affects an average of 60% of all workers in the region, the investigation specified.

If current trends continue, characterised by working conditions of greater precarity, it will be impossible for many countries to achieve the objective of decent working conditions for all, which was established as one of the Sustainable Development Objectives. The fact is that, alarming as it may be, the Latin American and Caribbean landscape is not alone in contributing to high rates of casual employment in the global labour market.

It is estimated that 2 billion workers or 61% of the global working population fit into this category.

The poor quality of many jobs is made apparent by the fact that in 2018 over a quarter of workers in low and medium income countries were living in conditions of moderate or extreme poverty.

The ILO has disclosed that in 2018 the majority of the 3.3 billion people in employment globally did not benefit from satisfactory levels of financial security, material wellbeing or equality of opportunities.

The international organisation considers bad working conditions to be the great labour issue and remarks that, even when it should guarantee prosperity, being employed is no guarantee of dignified living conditions.

In total, 700 million people live in moderate or extreme poverty despite having a job, and the organisation sheds light on the fact that it is women who are hardest hit. Women workers are still some of the most adversely affected in the labour market since, the analysis elaborates, their rate of participation was 48% in 2018, compared to 75% for men.

The rate of participation in the work force is an indicator of what proportion of a country’s working age population participates in the labour market, whether in employment or actively seeking employment, and reflects the scale of workers available at any given moment.

Additionally, women are underutilised in the work force, where the figure of underutilisation stands at 11%, compared to 7% for men.

Also, women are much more likely to work part time, although a significant percentage say they would prefer to work more hours.

Also of concern is that more than one in five young people (under 25 years old) is not in work, education or training, which is detrimental to their job prospects in the long term.

According to the report, it is calculated that in 2018 there were 172 million people out of employment in the world which is equivalent to a 5% global unemployment rate.

Regarding this point, the ILO referred to forecasts indicating that the rise in the working age population will see the number of unemployed people increase by 1 million each year, bringing it to 174 million in 2020. (PL)

(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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