The youth unemployment rate in Uruguay currently stands at 20% in the case of people under 25 according to the National Statistics Institute. To combat this phenomenon, Law No. 19,133, a youth employment act, was passed. Last year, we published an interview with Matías Rodríguez, former director of the Uruguayan Youth Institute – INJU – in which he mentioned certain advantages of the said law. According to him it would: “Improve decent work opportunities for young people through various incentives to the companies that employ them. This legislation will enable young people who are hired and who continue to study to have days off in order to reconcile their education; it also guarantees quotas for minorities, such as people from African origins, the disabled and transsexuals”. Currently, the Director of INJU is Santiago Soto.
While young Uruguayans are finding support in the new law, there are still certain aspects that need improving. On the other hand, we must not grudge Uruguay any merit as it has placed itself at the forefront regarding youth employment laws; for example, concerning minority groups. The goal is to maximise the scope and application of the law to improve the quality of life of young people. In this sense, the law in this South American country can be considered a pioneering initiative in the defence of disadvantaged groups.
According to journalist Lucia Etchegoyen, there are 4 types of contract: the first working experience in the private and public sectors, word placements for graduates, training contracts in companies and protected and promoted labour. The national director of Employment, belonging to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Eduardo Pereyra said that there are 40,000 young people aged 15 to 29 looking for their first jobs. However, the National Trade and Services Chamber (CNCS) is concerned about the fact that this law does not tackle the root cause: the need for a technical study on youth. Diego Yarza, from the CNCS’s legal department, stated the following in a recent interview in ‘El Observador’: “They are probably going to be working in low paid positions and they are going to be used to perform activities where young people are not required; to do simple tasks, which do not require much skill. This is not of interest either for the companies or for the country”.
Furthermore, some consulting firms that specialise in human resources in Uruguay suggest that we are facing a trend that is difficult to change: companies’ insist on requesting people with experience. This vicious circle bars access to the labour market for young people. If they are not offered a first job opportunity, it is technically impossible to promote youth employment. In addition, the longer young people are unemployed, the more difficult it is for them to find work. On the other hand, Inés Arrospide, general manager of Manpower, stresses an aspect required to understand the context of this youth employment law: “Young people are characterised by looking for a job that they really appreciate and enjoy, their attraction to flexibility, and for being more loyal to people than to companies. In general, they do not see a company as a place where they are going to work all their lives; they value training, the work environment and possibilities for improvement. In addition, they adapt quickly to technology, to stimuli, they are used to the speed of the Internet and they import this to all processes”.
Finally, in general, this law benefits young Uruguayans; the trick is to apply it effectively so that it can reach the greatest possible number of young people and avoid as much red tape as possible. We have to wait and see; time will judge the success or failure of this law.