Lacea-Lames will continue this Friday and Saturday throughout the day in different spaces of Universidad EAFIT. In the picture, Lucila Berniell’s and Sergio Urzua’s presentation.
After months of research in 10 capital cities of Latin America and through surveys to ten thousand people, a group of economists, led by the Argentinian Lucila Berniell, chief economist at the socioeconomic division of the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), was able to determine how people’s skills not only impact in a radical way their quality of life, but also reduce inequality in the region.
Without being conclusive in this matter, the research work presented this Thursday November 10th during the first day of the Lacea-Lames meeting—event that will continue until Saturday November 12th at Universidad EAFIT—made it clear not only that Latin American inhabitants have few skills to cope with life, but also that these few skills are very unequally distributed among the population. This would explain, to a great extent, why Latin America remains one of the world’s most unequal regions.
During her presentation, the economist demonstrated how biological, family, educational, working (place of work) and environmental factors determine the number of skills for daily life. When she mentions, for instance, the family aspect and the way parents invest in their children, she prioritizes time over money: “For the children’s future and the development of their skills, the time parents spend with them is much more important than the money invested in them”, said Berniell.
In addition, she provided statistics that show how serious the childhood issue in the region is: only 50% of pregnancies are wanted, 20% of women under the age of 19 are already mothers or are pregnant, and almost 80% of children are not provided with a balanced diet.
Then, she emphasized on the educational factors and focused her conclusions on teachers’ skills rather than on young people’s skills. The reason why is obvious: “skills acquired by children in schools depend, basically, on the quality of their teachers.” Although she acknowledged the increase of educational coverage in all Latin American countries, the quality in education remains an encumbrance. The problem lies in the selection of teachers, their training and incentives. “The entire institutional effort should be focused on that,” said the economist.
Using comparative tables and statistical formulas, Lucely finished her lecture concluding that people who have “a better education and better socio-emotional skills are more competitive than people who don’t.” This would partially explain why 50% of people in Latin America have informal jobs.
For his part, Sergio Urzua (University of Maryland), who shared his opinion on the CAF’s research work, praised these findings; however, he observed that skills have to do with the tasks that people perform in a company too, and posed the following question to the audience: “If a store doesn’t reach its monthly sales goal, is this due to its employees’ poor skills or because they got the wrong job despite having certain skills?”
Ultimately and despite the unpromising statistics of the region, both researchers agreed that childhood and education are the key. As long as children get to schools better prepared from their homes and, then, are able to acquire new skills thanks to the quality of their teachers, inequality in the region should decrease.
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