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Latin America: The future of work in the garden of forking paths

January 24, 2022

  Ramiro Albrieu, Gonzalo Zunino


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This document is part of the series 'Regional views on the future of work' that seeks to take stock of the main dimensions shaping the future of work in the Global South and present key messages and policy recommendations to create an innovative and inclusive future of work in Latin America.

*The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of IDRC or its Board of Governors. This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.


The confluence of a diverse set of Information and Communication Technologies – with Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the core, general-purpose technology – is fundamentally changing the way we produce, consume, and work. We are, it has been told, on the verge of a new industrial revolution.

However, past technological innovation has yielded winners and losers. The categories of “developed” and “developing” countries, or “Global North” and “Global South” are then closely related to forking paths in terms of growth, development, and working conditions across countries and regions. In Latin America, the first industrial revolution gave rise to two of its most salient characteristics that differentiate the region from high-income countries: high inequality and low long-term growth. The relative GDP per capita of Latin America with respect to the US or Western Europe is lower now than two hundred years ago, and the region remains more unequal than other regions, even those with similar levels of development.

Moreover, Latin American societies grew more fragmented over successive industrial revolutions and reconfigurations of the global economy. A minority of firms and workers were endowed with the capabilities to absorb novel ideas and knowledge and became isles of innovation, while many others were trapped in labor markets characterized by the use of old technologies and outdated skills. Latin America is, then, a garden of forking paths.

Will this time be different? Will AI and related technologies break with the Latin American long-term path of low growth and high inequality? Will those left behind join all-time winners and share the benefits of a new industrial revolution? With these question in mind we gatherer together academics and field experts at the “Dialogues on the future of work in the Global South” for approaching to them from southern and regional perspetives.

This document as part of the series ‘Regional views on the future of work’ seeks to take a step towards answering these questions providing an outlook of the regional record regarding the structural factors that matter to the future of work and some policy guidelines to create an innovative and inclusive future of work in Latin America.

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