Last week the United Nations Development Program issued an important report for understanding the economic situation facing El Salvador's families. The Report of Human Development in El Salvador 2007-08 presents a comprehensive overview of the job situation in the country:
El Salvador is a country of workers. Not only because almost everyone has to work in order to earn their daily sustenance, but also because of the fame of its inhabitants as workers. The industriousness and enterprising nature are so deeply rooted in the Salvadoran identity that more than half of the population considers that "to be Salvadoran" is to be hard working.
However, the work situation is far from being satisfactory for the majority of persons. This report has determined that when the greater part of the population complain that the country is either bad or very bad with respect to employment, it refers to the fact that there are very few opportunities for "dignified work." Dignified work is a privilege enjoyed by less than 20% of the economically active population. For the rest, 7% haven't found employment and are unemployed, 43% have opted for underemployment and the other 31%, although they receive incomes in excess of the minimum wage, do not cover the cost of basic food basket at market prices, while not enjoying coverage of social safety nets.
The 403 page report is full of statistics, analysis and recommendations for improving the job situation in the country. Getting quality information, like that presented in this report, is important. For example, recently I have read on a few websites the statement that 40% of Salvadorans still work in agriculture (example here). In fact, the Report explains that the actual percentage of Salvadorans working in agriculture as of 2006 is only 18.9%, down from 36.1% in 1992 at the end of the civil war. At the same time, the number of Salvadorans working in the services sector has gone from 49% to 65%, while the number of Salvadorans working in industry/maquilas has remained constant. (UN Report Chart 2.4 at the bottom of page 56).
Among other findings and recommendations in the Report:
- The lack of dignified employment, especially among youth, is tearing at the social fabric of El Salvador.
- In a country where so many are under-employed in the informal sector, health insurance protections should not be limited to those who are formally employed.
- Discrimination against women exists in many sectors of the economy.
- The Salvadoran spirit of industriousness is a national asset which all sectors should join together to elevate in the search to expand opportunities for all.