The time that parents dedicate to their children, quality of education, and the reduction of the drop-out rate, as well as youth employment, are basic pillars in the development of skills of Uruguayans, according to the Economy and Development Report of CAF, Development Bank of Latin America
Countries of Latin America have increased their investment in education during past decades, and Uruguay has not been an exception. Currently, public expenditures in education reach 4.8 percent of GDP, which is an average for the region and still below the expenditure of more developed regions.
Although Uruguay is among the Latin American countries with better results in academic performance tests, both at a primary (TERCE) and secondary level (PISA), it still faces serious challenges with respect to graduation rates (only 40 percent of youths complete secondary education), and with respect to the relevance of education in relation to the labor market. In addition, Uruguay faces the challenge of improving other types of skills which are not traditionally expressed in academic performance tests, which are usually grouped under the name "socio-emotional" skills.
According to the 2016 Economy and Development Report (RED, for its acronym in Spanish) "More skills for work and life" presented today by CAF, Development Bank of Latin America, in the Executive Tower, these challenges related to the education of human capital are not only the responsibility of educational systems but also of other institutions that cross the path of people from early on. The family, the labor market, and the physical and social environment throughout their lives are responsible, together with the educational system, for the education of cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical skills of the population. The 2016 RED shows how these three dimensions of individual development are closely linked with success in the areas of work, education, health, and the levels of civic and social inclusion of people.
Pablo Sanguinetti, Chief Economist and Corporate Director of Economic Analysis and Knowledge for Development at CAF, explained, "The evidence points out that everything is important to achieve better skills; from sanitation infrastructure to programs for the support of families or other policies that help families to have more quality time to spend with the younger children. With respect to education, a special focus for public interventions should consider a reevaluation of the tasks of teachers and principals in schools, considering aspects such as selection, training, and motivation, to take advantage of the teaching talent".
During the presentation of the report, Sanguinetti added, "This more comprehensive vision of human capital implies a solid coordination of actions between public agencies and different spheres of competence: education, social development, work, health, and infrastructure planning. The case of Uruguay is particularly interesting due to the advances in dialogue and inter-ministerial coordination compared with other countries of the region. An example of these coordination initiatives is the "Plan Nacional de Cuidados" (National Care Plan)
Another important factor highlighted by the 2016 RED is the importance of socio-emotional skills for the tasks of the future. Better paying jobs which cannot easily be replaced by machines or robots (less "automated") are the ones that make a more intensive use of cognitive and socio-emotional skills.
In this respect, there is a serious challenge as, according to measurements presented by CAF, Uruguayan youths are among the ones with the lowest socio-emotional skills compared to other countries of the region. However, the labor market in Uruguay offers better opportunities to continue skills training in adulthood, always compared with other countries of the region. This is mainly due to a greater relative importance of the formal sector. which has more effective mechanisms than the informal sector or of a smaller scale, to generate skills both resulting from the work practice itself, or from training measures specifically implemented for this purpose.
Sanguinetti added, "The challenges of skills training for life and work need to be addressed starting now, as skills training is a slow, continuous process that starts early in life and luckily, never ends. CAF supports the countries not only through financing but also in the construction of an agenda for the development of public policies that enable the advancement of these issues".
These were the main issues addressed during the RED presentation in Montevideo, event which included the participation of CAF's Director Representative un Uruguay, Gladis Genua, the Minister of Social Development, Marina Arismendi, the Minister of Education and Culture, María Julia Muñoz, ECLAC's Director in Montevideo, Verónica Amarante, the President of the Executive Council of ANEP, Wilson Netto, the Dean of the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Administration of UDELAR, Rodrigo Arim, and the Director of Economic Studies of the Chamber of Industries of Uruguay, Sebastián Pérez, among other distinguished guests and panelists.