The Corona Virus pandemic will if anything accelerate the trend towards a digital economy. For economic growth in this new world, Latin America faces some particular issues. One of these is its human capital; the capabilities of its workforce.
On the plus side, Latin America has a younger population than Europe. The cost of many technologies still protect many workers from technological driven automation, though this will change over time. On the downside, the population will start to age after 2020. A higher percentage of the region’s jobs are considered automatable than in developed economies.
The need for continued adult learning is if anything just as pressing in as in other parts of the world. Yet, in providing this type of education, Latin America is behind averages in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based multilateral policy body. And If you are a woman in the region, chances are you have even less access to adult learning.
But there are sensible and doable things we can do to address these issues. Santander is the largest sponsor of tertiary education in the world and the leading bank in Latin America. It was, therefore, a natural decision for us to sponsor this OECD report on how to increase adult education in the region.
The just-published report underlines the specific challenges facing Latin America in developing lifelong learning programs for a modern economy. Small and medium enterprises and informal firms, which play such crucial role in Latin America economies, are less likely to provide training. Technology and automation are less significant factors than in most OECD markets. Latin American countries spend less on active labour market policies; employers make up some of the difference. And though National Training Institutes are important players in adult learning, their effectiveness should be improved.
The report also points out that, when they are well-designed, financial incentives for employers to provide training can be an effective policy option, as programs in Chile and Argentina demonstrate. Targeting financial incentives at employers rather than at individuals has the advantage that training is more likely to meet the specific needs of the firms and, therefore, to fill concrete gaps in labour market needs.
The report argues that all stakeholders, public and private, need to contribute equitably to steering and fostering lifelong learning to enhance its economic and social well-being.