Employment, Unemployment, and Underemployment
In a survey by the International Institute for Management Development, Chile displayed many strengths, but its labor force was a mixed bag—Chileans worked the longest hours on average of any country in the world, but per-hour productivity was low. According to another survey, per worker productivity was about one-sixth that of U.S. workers. Many cities, for instance, employ a platoon of human parking meters—dead-end jobs that, whatever their merits in providing a paycheck, contribute little to economic development.
At the end of 2005, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE, National Statistics Institute), the unemployment rate fell to 7 percent, the lowest in eight years, and dropped below 6 percent in Regions III (Atacama), VI (O’Higgins), VII (Maule), X (Los Lagos), XI (Aisén), and XII (Magallanes). The lowest, just 3.8 percent, was in Region X. There were pockets of high unemployment exceeding 10 percent, though, in cities such as Arica (Region I, Tarapacá), La Serena (Region IV, Coquimbo), Valparaíso (Region V, Valparaíso), and Concepción (Region VIII, Biobío).
Employment statistics can be misleading, though, as figures are significantly higher among young people. At the same time, the standard for calculating unemployment is whether an individual worked at all; anyone who spends even an hour in casual labor counts among the employed. Many individuals also labor as street vendors hawking ice cream, newspapers, and music cassettes, but their earnings are low and they often run afoul of the police. Because of seasonal agricultural work, unemployment figures fall in the spring and rise after the autumn harvest.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition