Employment in Colombia barely recovering from COVID-19 collapse

(Image: Rosa Juliana Herrera)

Unemployment in Colombia is recovering only slightly from the historic economic collapse between March and April when the COVID-19 pandemic left 5 million people without a job, according to statistics agency DANE.

In July, the country’s unemployment rate was 20.2% or 9.4% percentage points higher than in the same month last year, the DANE said in its monthly report.

After the government began gradually reopening the economy in late April, the increase in unemployment dropped 1.5 points from the 10.9 increase registered in May when unemployment reached 21.4%.

Unemployment in Colombia amid COVID-19 crisis

Source: DANE

The recovery of jobs indicates the devastating and long-lasting effects of the pandemic and the relative small impact of the government’s gradual reactivation of economic activity.

Duque’s ‘non-labor reform’

President Ivan Duque came under fire on Tuesday after the labor ministry issued an emergency decree that would allow employers to hire people per hour and evade paying benefits if they employ people for hours that amount to less than the country’s monthly minimum wage of $262.

Labor Minister Angel Custodio Cabrera’s denied that his “Social Protection Floor” was a labor reform that severely reduces workers’ ability to earn a living wage and access to healthcare and pensions.

Notwithstanding, Cabrera’s decree is not tied to the state of emergency that is in force and thus valid infinitely unless the Constitutional strikes it down or replaced by legislation from Congress.

Employers close to Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party has been promoting such a labor reform since last year, which was one of the reasons massive protests broke out in November.

Duque’s employment struggles

The Duque administration’s economic policy was accelerating increased unemployment since before the coronavirus, which skyrocketed Colombia’s unemployment rate to a level higher than those registered during an economic crisis in 1999 and 2000.

The government has been criticized for failing to issue decrees that would help the recovery of small businesses and prevent famine.

This crisis, combined with extreme violence caused by the country’s armed conflict, brought the country on the brink of becoming a failed state.

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