Quality education: the key to boost labor productivity.

Author:Haskel, David

Latin American nations are making major headway towards improving access to education, but today's demanding labor markets also require high quality learning that is closely linked to specific economic needs, experts agreed.

This is even more important now that the boom cycle of recent years is giving way to economic stagnation in several regional countries. In this scenario, boosting productivity is a must, and this can only be achieved with a highly qualified labor force, it is said.

"Productivity growth depends on multiple factors, such as the adoption of technology, investments, and a quality workforce," Isaac Cohen, former Washington office head of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, told Latin Trade.

"But in order to get a more skilled workforce, it is not enough to increase access to education--it is also necessary to boost the quality of instruction. This will in turn enhance the countries' ability to receive technology and attract productive investments," creating a virtuous circle, Cohen said.

Juan Pablo Lohle, a former Argentine ambassador to the Organization of American States, Brazil, and Spain, and current director of the Centro de Estudios Politicos Estrategicos Internacionales (CEPEI) think-tank in Buenos Aires, said one big problem in several regional nations was precisely putting too much emphasis on access and not enough on quality training.

"In general, recent economic growth in most of the nations in the area has created more jobs, but it has done little to improve quality," he told Latin Trade.

"In the largest economies, such as Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, there is still a lot of unregistered labor. In Argentina, up to 40 percent of the jobs are unregistered," Lohle said.

Informal hiring means fewer demands from both employers and the employees, including less requirements in terms of learning and formal training. "The result is a lesser degree of competitiveness and productivity" at the...

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