Typical street scene in Santa Ana, El Salvador. (Photo: iStock)

Typical street scene in Santa Ana, El Salvador. (Photo: iStock)

IMF Survey : Latin American Youth Worried About Jobs, Education

March 14, 2014

  • IMF talks with students about challenges facing world economy, Latin America
  • Young people concerned about access to education, job prospects
  • Students ask IMF what it has learned from past crises

At a series of gatherings across Latin America co-hosted by the IMF, university students voiced their concerns about the impact of the uncertain global environment on their countries and their worries about access to education and whether they will be able to find a job.

(l-r) Nouriel Roubini, Augusto Townsend Klinge (moderator, El Comercio), David Lipton at Universidad del Pacífico, Lima, Peru (photo: José Orihuela)

(l-r) Nouriel Roubini, Augusto Townsend Klinge (moderator, El Comercio), David Lipton at Universidad del Pacífico, Lima, Peru (photo: José Orihuela)


“In this global economy, with so much interconnectedness, what happens in the rest of the world really matters for your future,” said David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF during a series of town hall-style events in universities in Mexico, Peru, and Chile.

Lipton explained that the IMF encourages all its member countries to pursue smart policies so that they avoid risks that might lead to crises. “Countries need to recognize that some of what they do spills over and affects other countries and could damage them,” he pointed out.

“No country is an island and whatever happens in the rest of the world matters for every country,” added Nouriel Roubini, Chairman of Roubini Global Economics, who accompanied Lipton on this university road show in Latin America.

“Your generation will not just be working on improving your own country, but will have to be engaged in a global dialogue to secure a strong and stable global economy,” Lipton told students.

Reaching out to young people

The three events entitled “Latin American Economy and the Future: The Youth’s Voice” took place at the Instituto Tecnolá½¹gico Autá½¹nomo de México in Mexico City on March 3, at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima on March 5, and at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago on March 7.

Each event attracted about 200–300 students from both public and private universities and was webstreamed live. Students were able to send questions in advance of these programs, and during the events they asked questions live and via Twitter.

“This trip is a chance for us to speak with young people in Latin America about the IMF, to try to explain what we do, and to try to understand what’s important to you and your future,” Lipton said.

In addition to economic conditions in their own countries, education, and jobs, students asked a variety of other questions, from climate change to natural resources to current events such as the situation in Ukraine.

These Latin American youth events are part of a series of activities the IMF is undertaking in the region in the run-up to the IMF–World Bank Annual Meetings in Peru in 2015, known as the Road to Lima.

Knowledge is key

When asked what was the key challenge facing Latin America over the next decade, the top answer given by students was education.

Lipton stressed that all countries need to prepare for the future. Latin American countries are competing in the global environment, so raising the caliber of education in the region—especially in science and technology—is important. “The world is changing so fast that education is going to have to keep up with it,” Lipton said.

Lipton called on countries in the region to continue to invest in education, so that when students finish their studies they have good jobs.

Roubini agreed, pointing out that “the best capital that any country can have is human capital.”

In response to a question on income inequality, Lipton said that greater efforts to support health and education can help address inequality.

Job prospects remain a concern

Students expressed concerns about their job prospects and about perceived biases in the job market against youth because they don’t have relevant job experience. They were also worried about automation slowly taking away certain jobs.

“It’s not just about acquiring knowledge in this modern economy, it’s about being creative and innovative,” Lipton told students.

“You need to learn all of your life—when you study and when you work,” added Roubini.

The IMF continues to learn

In response to a question on what has the IMF learned from recent crises, particularly in Europe, Lipton pointed out that the Fund “always tries to learn from past crises.”

“One thing we have learned is that no crisis is like the past. We don’t pretend to always get it right but we will keep at it until we get it right,” Lipton said.

Lipton also said that the IMF regularly assesses its policies and looks at ways to make growth more sustainable. For example, in the case of energy prices and subsidies, Lipton explained that the IMF has been looking at ways to improve energy policies to help make government finances more sustainable. “The Fund will continue to branch out into a host of other related topics, especially those that we consider macro-critical,” he noted.

Essay contest for students

Lipton also announced the launch of an essay competition open to all students in Latin America. Students are asked to write about what they see as the key issues and challenges facing future generations in the region. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2014.

More information on the essay contest can be found on the Road to Lima home page.