Automation and Pandemic: Threats to Employment in Latin America

This working papers studies the risk of automation, the unfeasibility of teleworking and the risk of contagion due to physical proximity in the six largest economies in Latin America.

Labor markets, in Latin America and the world, are at a particular juncture. Two potentially important factors have been added to the usual factors that determine labor dynamics: the growing automation process and the COVID-19 crisis. The first is a gradual and increasingly important process that is already affecting the nature of work in the region. The second, on the other hand, is a sudden and unexpected shock, which has transformed labor relations around the world.

These two factors, although of a very different nature, are related. In particular, the health crisis unleashed by COVID-19 is likely to encourage automation processes, which would otherwise have progressed more gradually.

The document studies the probability of automation, the feasibility of teleworking, and the risk of physical proximity infections in the six largest economies in the region: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, countries that account for 79% of the Latin American population and 86% of their GDP.

In addition to aggregate results for each country, asymmetries in these variables are documented depending on a broad set of sociodemographic factors (e.g. age, gender, education) and employment (employment condition, sector, informality and income).