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The Americas at a Crossroads: Putting Decent Work Back on the Development Agenda

By Mario Cimoli, Roberto Frenkel, James Heintz, Jan Kregel, Cecilia Lopez Montano, Jerry Maldonado, Manuel F. Montes, Annalisa Primi, Manuel Riesco Larrain | September 19, 2005


Charting a New Path for Development in the Americas
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.
It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.
–Albert Einstein

Over the last two decades, employment has occupied a less than prominent role on the international development agenda. Yet, for most working men and women throughout the world, access to a good job represents the difference between a life of poverty and a life of hope and economic opportunity. It is the primary engine of wealth creation; the vehicle through which men and women sustain their families; and a basic tool for social advancement.

The creation of decent work opportunities must, therefore, rise once again as a central priority in development policymaking. Neither safety nets nor foreign aid alone can serve as an effective substitute for a dynamic national economy able to produce enough quality jobs to employ all those who seek employment.

Creating decent work opportunities in today’s increasingly globalized world, however, requires a more dynamic mix of public and private sector policies that mobilize the region’s untapped domestic human, financial and natural resources and that facilitate its strategic integration in the world economy. Such a strategy requires the systematic coordination between macroeconomic, production, trade, and human resource development policies to advance decent work opportunities. Failure of both national and international institutions to coordinate policymaking in these critical areas has undermined the region’s development prospects and stymied economic growth, job creation and stability in the hemisphere.

Charting a new path for development in the Americas requires:

An employment-friendly macroeconomic policy framework

Long-term economic stability requires macroeconomic policies that foster employment generation, and facilitate productive and social capital investments while controlling inflation and minimizing external vulnerabilities. A single-minded focus on price stability and fiscal austerity—to the exclusion of these other important economic and social policy objectives—undermines long-term growth and employment prospects for the region and poses a significant threat to its long-term economic and political stability. A more dynamic mix of monetary, fiscal, and exchange rate policies, combined with capital management techniques, is essential for promoting stable growth and employment generation in the region. Such a framework could also provide more effective incentives for stimulating private sector investment in employment-generating activities.

Strategic trade, investment and production policies that expand regional markets and capabilities

Trade liberalization alone is not sufficient for overcoming the supply- and demand-side constraints facing many of the countries in the region. Long-run growth and quality employment generation in Latin America and the Caribbean depends on the structure of the productive sector and the dynamic evolution of this structure over time. More proactive production-oriented and employment-targeted policies are essential for promoting competitiveness and productivity and expanding the size of domestic and regional markets.

The expansion of domestic market opportunities must be coupled with a revitalized process of regional integration that promotes employment through investments in regional infrastructure, production, technology and human resource capabilities. A successful regional integration strategy should be measured by the extent to which it advances social mobility, prosperity and equality of opportunity for all people and nations—large and small—in the hemisphere.

A renewed focus on human resource development

Highly active social policies that promote social protection, mobility and human capital development are essential for ensuring the region’s competitiveness. Safety nets alone do not provide a sufficient vehicle for investing in and advancing a country’s most important assets—its people.

More efficient public and private sector institutions

Efficient public institutions and a professional civil service are essential for mobilizing domestic resources and implementing a coherent policy regime that promotes human and social development. A revitalized public sector is also essential for creating an enabling environment for private sector development and for stimulating the types of partnerships necessary for generating decent work and expanding economic opportunities throughout the hemisphere.

For the vast majority of poor people throughout the world, access to a good job remains the single most important variable for ensuring social stability and economic well-being. Progress on this front, however, will require reprioritizing decent work for all as a global economic policy objective, and coordinating national and international policies to achieve this basic end. After all, policy alternatives do exist. What is required is the global political will, leadership and ingenuity to nurture their implementation.

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Read More: Development, Economy, Finance, Jobs, Tax, Trade, Americas

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