Poverty and Labor Briefs is a semiannual series produced by the Latin America and the Caribbean Poverty Gender and Equity Group (LCSPP) of the World Bank. The briefs track and benchmark poverty and labor outcomes in the region using harmonized databases of socio-economic and labor market statistics.
While LAC continues its progress towards becoming a middle-class region, in 2013 poverty reduction was slower than in previous years. The bottom 40 percent of the population has also seen decelerating income growth since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Driving the lower gains in shared prosperity and poverty reduction is the region’s slowing economic growth. Similarly, after more than a decade of steady decline, inequality has been stagnant since 2010 and remains high. Given the crucial role of labor earnings in poverty and inequality reduction, this report analyzes more deeply LAC’s labor markets and its implications for the region’s social gains going forward. It shows that the region’s push to increase its human capital has yielded dividends; increases in the educational attainment of the labor force are evident across the region. Nonetheless, the substantial growth in wages observed during the last decade was not accompanied by significant changes in the labor market: agriculture and low-productivity, informal service employment continued to be key sources of income for the poor in LAC. Instead, most of the gains were seen in countries that benefitted from the commodity boom of the last decade. As the commodity boom fades and growth wanes, there is a risk that the social gains achieved in the century’s first decade will erode.