The International Finance Corporation (IFC) regional head for Education and Services Martin C. Spicer said, Latin America must invest in cultivating skilled manpower to raise productivity. He 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 always blamed about 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, expenditure per student in the region fell, while enrollment numbers swelled. As a result, the quality of education has suffered. Spicer said that Argentina and El Salvador are exceptions to this trend. Further, 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 described as ‘right approach’ the Brazilian government’s efforts to improve quality through stricter conditions on subsidized student financing. He suggests the region should develop education programs that are more responsive to the needs of the marketplace while saying that Latin America trails most other regions of the world in vocational training for technical fields.
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