In This Review

Going Viral: COVID-19 and the Accelerated Transformation of Jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean
Going Viral: COVID-19 and the Accelerated Transformation of Jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean
By Guillermo Beylis, Roberto Fattal Jaef, Michael Morris, Ashwini Rekha Sebastian, and Rishabh Sinha
World Bank, 2020, 109 pp.

This study is a reminder of the abiding difficulty of predicting how technological innovations will affect the future shape of the workforce. The World Bank economists who wrote this report lament the “premature deindustrialization” of Latin America, where industrial employment as a share of total jobs declined before economies reached maturity. Meanwhile, the rapidly expanding service sector—a very broad grouping that includes the financial, accounting, retail trade, communications, sports and entertainment, hospitality, and tourism industries—is generally less productive than the manufacturing sector and offers workers lower wages and few benefits. The authors’ central policy recommendations target the region’s Achilles’ heel: the enduring deficits in quality education and training for all age groups. The authors do point to some grounds for optimism, however. Jobs offshored from advanced economies are expanding (rather than hollowing out) positions for middle-skilled workers in places such as Mexico and the countries of Central America. And the emergence of digital platforms could empower Latin American workers to market their competitive skills and innovative products worldwide.