education in Brazil Brazil Photos/Getty Images

Overcoming Latin America’s Skills Mismatch

Latin America could be on the verge of an epochal economic transformation – but only if employers can find workers with the skills they need. The way forward lies in expanding access to high-quality education, which would create the workforce needed to boost economic productivity, raise living standards, and reduce inequality.

WASHINGTON, DC – Latin America could be on the verge of an epochal transformation. Over the next few years, middle-income jobs – particularly in the services sector – are expected to account for nearly all of the region’s employment growth. Forecasters say that countries in the region could add approximately 14-23 million well-paying jobs through 2018 – if employers can find workers with the skills they need.

And therein lies the trouble. Latin America’s education systems are struggling to produce enough skilled workers to raise productivity. More than one-third of firms in the region cite employees’ low skill levels as a major business constraint. In order to boost economic growth, Latin America must invest in a skilled workforce. By expanding access to high-quality education, from public and private educators alike, the region’s countries will increase productivity, raise living standards, and reduce inequality.

Dealing with this labor market mismatch is long overdue. The first step toward ensuring that Latin America’s students have the skills they need to take advantage of the region’s opportunities is to recognize that increasing education budgets and keeping students in class longer, though important, are not enough. Some Latin American countries have raised education spending. Mexico and Brazil spend 5-6% of GDP on education, more than many developed countries, and roughly three times more than China. But the quality of their programs does not reflect this spending, and a stronger focus on tertiary education is needed.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

    The Brexit Surrender

    European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have given the go-ahead to talks with Britain on post-Brexit trade relations. But, as European Council President Donald Tusk has said, the most difficult challenge – forging a workable deal that secures broad political support on both sides – still lies ahead.

  2. The Great US Tax Debate

    ROBERT J. BARRO vs. JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS on the impact of the GOP tax  overhaul.

    • Congressional Republicans are finalizing a tax-reform package that will reshape the business environment by lowering the corporate-tax rate and overhauling deductions. 

    • But will the plan's far-reaching changes provide the boost to investment and growth that its backers promise?

    ROBERT J. BARRO | How US Corporate Tax Reform Will Boost Growth

    JASON FURMAN & LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS | Robert Barro's Tax Reform Advocacy: A Response

  3. Murdoch's Last Stand?

    Rupert Murdoch’s sale of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney for $66 billion may mark the end of the media mogul’s career, which will long be remembered for its corrosive effect on democratic discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. 

    From enabling the rise of Donald Trump to hacking the telephone of a murdered British schoolgirl, Murdoch’s media empire has staked its success on stoking populist rage.

  4. Bank of England Leon Neal/Getty Images

    The Dangerous Delusion of Price Stability

    Since the hyperinflation of the 1970s, which central banks were right to combat by whatever means necessary, maintaining positive but low inflation has become a monetary-policy obsession. But, because the world economy has changed dramatically since then, central bankers have started to miss the monetary-policy forest for the trees.

  5. Harvard’s Jeffrey Frankel Measures the GOP’s Tax Plan

    Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a former member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, outlines the five criteria he uses to judge the efficacy of tax reform efforts. And in his view, the US Republicans’ most recent offering fails miserably.

  6. A box containing viles of human embryonic Stem Cell cultures Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

    The Holy Grail of Genetic Engineering

    CRISPR-Cas – a gene-editing technique that is far more precise and efficient than any that has come before it – is poised to change the world. But ensuring that those changes are positive – helping to fight tumors and mosquito-borne illnesses, for example – will require scientists to apply the utmost caution.

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now