Youth unemployment rates are near 20 percent in some areas of Peru, and not coincidentally, gang activity also is on the rise. It is a situation that cannot be ignored and one which President Ollanta Humala pledged to address during the campaign.
His solution: combat gangs by promoting job training. This August, just weeks after his inauguration, Humala introduced two new programs—Trabaja Perú (Peru Works) and Jóvenes a la Obra (Youth Get to Work)—to begin to address the official 14 percent youth unemployment rate. The programs have the much needed goals of encouraging training and entrepreneurship and connecting young workers to labor markets.
On September 13, the president once again demonstrated his commitment to Trabaja Perú at the formal launch of the program in Lima: “That's what we have to do, generate jobs, generate dignity and respect among people.” At the ceremony, Humala noted that the program will create jobs in 195 provinces with emphasis given to those in the lowest income quintile. Minister of Labor and Employment Promotion Rudecindo Vega has said that Trabaja Perú will benefit 5 million Peruvians (300,000 jobs by 2012) with employment opportunities building much-needed infrastructure.
The programs have the right goals in mind, and in some respects, they are similar to ProJoven, a program that has provided free vocational training to over 40,000 low-income youth for the past 10 years. But there is more to be done.
In February 2011 then-president of the Peruvian Congress, César Zumaeta Flores of the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA) party, introduced the Promoción del Empleo Juvenil bill. The legislation was an attempt to promote employment and protect workers’ rights for Peruvians age 15–24.
The law would have required domestic and international companies to provide young workers benefits such as health care, overtime pay, vacation time, and a 48-hour work week. It also proposed the creation of a government-led vocational training school to be developed in collaboration with the private sector, which would offer school credit for on-the-job experience and provide students with skills certificates under the auspices of the Ministry of Labor (Compensación por Tiempo de Servicio—CTS). Another provision would have included payroll subsidies for companies that hire young people. Although Zumaeta lost his re-election bid, the new Congress should consider re-introducing parts or all of the legislation.
The legislation is timely and would complement President Humala’s other youth employment efforts. Such legislation would enshrine protections for young workers and youth employment promotion in law.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.