Publicado el: 27/12/2011

The Young and Employment: A View from Argentina

Spain’s “indignados”, protesters in Africa, “Occupy Wall Street” in the US, “Pingüinos” in Chile and so many other expressions of anger and frustration… Why does Argentina seem to go the opposite way in terms of juvenile protest?

It is necessary to be familiar with some of the causes of those protests in order to be able to answer this. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), they are manifestations that find their origin in generations marked by frustration and lack of opportunities and perspective. As for the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), the European statistics are very clear: Spain, for instance, has a 48% rate of juvenile unemployment (people aged 15 through 24). The European Union, which promised a future of prosperity and integration for all its members, witnesses a wave of juvenile protests and its unemployment rate in that segment is of 22%.

Moreover, this wave of frustration has one more component that will turn into an issue to be tackled shortly: the lack of motivation to study. Some still find shelter in studying when they lack a job, but the urgent needs and the lack of perspective “push the young to the streets”, specialists warn. In Africa and Europe, but also in Asia and North America, juvenile unemployment is what fuels demonstrations and uprisings. So much so that during the last G20 summit, the participating countries made a commitment to focus their efforts on unemployment, especially that affecting the young, who are the most affected by the international crisis and the adjustments all countries are undergoing. The ILO celebrated this decision, which included an Employment Taskforce, while they warned, together with the OECD, “a massive loss of employment in the G20 countries for next year”.

So what about Latin America? According to the reports presented at the Inter American Conference of Ministers Labor, which recently met in El Salvador, the unemployment rates in the region have decreased, but they still need to stay “on alert” due to the 14% rate of juvenile unemployment and an estimated 20 million youngsters who do not study nor work.

In this context, Argentina’s situation seems paradigmatic, because even though it is second in terms of juvenile unemployment in Latin America (18%), which more than duplicates the general index (below 8%), it has not witnessed any massive protest intent among the young.

To understand this reality it is necessary to consider historical context. In perspective and considering the economic abyss and peak of unemployment suffered during the crisis of 2001, the current situation is perceived as tending to get better. From a juvenile unemployment of over 25% during the years after the downfall (official stats) and that, according to the ILO, reached peaks of up to 35%, the current index (18%) appears to be acceptable.

Thus, even though the ILO and other organizations warn about social protection of youngsters and the preeminence of precarious and underpaid employment, thousands of new jobs were created in Argentina in the last years and this tempers the possibility of protest and dissatisfaction.

The initiatives of NGOs and Organizations of the Civil Society disseminate in this context. Among them, the employment agencies and centers stand out. They have grown thanks to their ability to act during the crisis and after it subsided.

In this sense, the Employment Service at AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina), created in 1974, is one of the main agencies. Its outstanding work on this issue granted it the recognition by the IADB (Inter American Development Bank), with whom it signed an agreement for the creation of a Network of Employment Offices that would help abate the effects of the 2001 crisis. Since then, AMIA’s Employment Service has multiplied and opened 13 offices in the country’s main locations, and it has offered Human Resources advice to 9 thousand companies and relocated over 16 thousand jobs in the last 10 years, thanks to its database with 650 thousand candidates.

There is special focus on helping those who look for a job, particularly the young, who make up the 25% of this population. For them, it offers the following courses, among others: Labor Training with workshops to teach how to look for the first job, digital alphabetization, and key tools to search for options in the labor market. All activities are free for candidates. The crisis was the fuel that triggered off such initiatives that, as they grow in terms of reputation and experience, the also promote socially responsible and efficient activity from the companies.


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