Nearshore Americas

IFC Chief: LATAM Countries Should Get Serious About Skills Development

Latin America must invest in cultivating a skilled workforce to raise productivity, says Martin C. Spicer, the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) regional Head for Education and Services.
In an opinion piece published on Project Syndicate, Spicer stated that over the next few years, middle-income jobs – particularly in the services sector – are expected to account for nearly all of the region’s employment growth. He noted that more than one-third of firms in the region cite employees’ low skill levels as a major business constraint.
According to a report from the World Bank, Latin American countries would add between 14 and 23 million jobs through 2018 if employers can find workers with the skills they need.
Analysts have long blamed Latin America’s education system for its inability to produce enough skilled workers. By expanding access to high-quality education, from public and private educators alike, the region’s countries will increase productivity, raise living standards, and reduce inequality, Spicer said.
Latin American countries must increase their education budgets and keep students in class longer, he argued. Mexico and Brazil spend between 5% and 6% of GDP on education, more than many developed countries, but they are not focusing on tertiary education.
“Overall, Latin American governments spend about one-third less on tertiary education (as a share of GDP) than advanced economies,” Spicer added.
Between 2000 and 2010, according to Spicer, expenditure per student in the region fell, while enrollment numbers swelled.  As a result, the quality of education has suffered.  Spicer says Argentina and El Salvador are exceptions to this trend.
“The second step that Latin American countries must take is to promote – and enforce – clear quality standards for public and private education. This should be accompanied with financing solutions that make quality higher education more affordable and accessible to all socioeconomic groups,” he suggested.
Spicer has described as ‘right approach’ the Brazilian government’s efforts to improve quality through stricter conditions on subsidized student financing.
Saying that Latin America trails most other regions of the world in vocational training for technical fields, he suggests the region should develop education programs that are more responsive to the needs of the marketplace.

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Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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