Guatemala needs decent jobs

By María Longo

Finding a job in Guatemala is no easy task, but finding a decent job is even more complicated. Employers often avoid paying overtime, offer indecent salaries, don’t offer benefits, and vilify unions. There’s a misconception that we have to be thankful for any employment opportunity and forget about the rights of workers, but no, labor rights must be upheld like all human rights. Demanding these rights is the correct thing to do. Everyone has the right to work so that they may live with dignity.

The 2021 National Employment and Earnings Survey (ENEI) showed that there were 164,557 unemployed people. Overcoming this is the first challenge. Though, finding a job is not always the solution: thousands of people work more than eight hours a day for a wage way below legal minimums without any guarantees.

Out of every 10 Guatemalans, 7 find themselves working a job without a contract, so they too are unable to fully enjoy their right to social security.

According to the National Policy on Dignified Employment, 2017-2032, women and youth are the population groups who have most seen their right to a good job violated, more so in rural areas and within indigenous communities. 1 out of every 4 young people is neither studying nor working, with a life trajectory that is more and more uncertain. In this sense, Guatemala is missing out on the benefits of its demographics.

“Free access to opportunities and access to the world of dignified, quality employment, where everyone feels happy, is one of the most important pillars of wellbeing. However, dignified employment has barely grown in recent years, and as a consequence, millions of Guatemalans have had to take on low-quality jobs or migrate,” the policy said.

Decent work is a part of the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s goal number 8, and expresses the need to improve conditions for the 780 million men and women in the world who work but fail to earn enough money to support themselves and their families and overcome the poverty level of $2 per day.

The International Labor Organization defines decent work as “a concept that seeks to express what should be, in the globalized world, a good job or dignified employment. Work that dignifies and allows for self-improvement is not just any old job.”

Decent work falls under basic labor rights principles, provides a fair income proportionate to the effort made, without discrimination based on gender or anything else, with social protections and dialogue.

Quality of working life

The wellbeing of the worker has an impact on the wellbeing of the institution where they work, as well as the economy as a whole. In her research called Labor rights: a look at laws of quality of life at work, Juana Patlán explains that quality of life is a multidimensional concept related to all aspects of a job relevant to satisfaction, motivation, and the productivity of employees.

She adds: for a worker to have quality of life at work, they must have the right to a job that allows them to balance personal and family obligations; the right to job satisfaction; the right to a job that provides professional development; the right to a motivating job; the right to wellbeing at work; the right to favorable working conditions; the right to safety and security at work; the right to an enriching and meaningful job; the right to adequate compensation; the right to autonomy at work; the right to job stability; the right to work a set schedule; the right to participate in decision-making at work; the right to form interpersonal relations at work; the right to feedback; the right to support; the right to recognition; and the right to equal, fair and decent treatment at work.