Worried Workers

Transposing emblem by Martha Corzo Castañeda

At present here, in Lima, both women and men, young and middle-aged, are uncertain about their jobs.

Very few people in search of a job in our capital have found a position over the last two years, among them, many recent graduates, often with good grades.

In previous years, when our country was highly regarded internationally, several Chilean companies invested in various areas here. But they do not want to risk their capital any more and over the last few years have not been good for us economically, with some of them doubting whether they will continue in 2019. If they do not, unemployment will rise.

A few years ago, there was a time when many international companies fired a large percentage of their staff worldwide due to the crises in Europe and the United States. Some of the employees that have remained are Peruvians, while others departed. Yes, the truth is that Peru exports its best talent, the reason being that we do not pay Peruvians what they can earn abroad.

Labor situation for women and men

Women are the ones who have more problems when looking for a job. And many of them have trouble finding a secure position so they must accept part-time or informal jobs in areas for non-professionals.

In recent decades, many women who are now looking for a job were hired for a position when they were young and did not have babies. However, afterwards, many of them became pregnant. First, they had one, after a relatively short time they had another, and some of them, in an unguarded moment, had a third. Consequently, they had to decide which activity they would prefer, and, if they chose to bet on the “mother” work, the sad consequence was that they lost their job.

These are some of the women that are now looking for a position. If they return to work, they must have a live-in housemaid to take care of their children, so they need higher salaries. As a result, such employees earn a high salary today, but these jobs are very hard to find in Lima. In some cases, women work only to pay these extra expenses related to children because by working they feel more appreciated.

In the United States, by contrast, the women working as secretaries may leave their jobs and slip back into them at the drop of a hat by calling their bosses when their children reach the age of nursery school, of course if their record is good as an employee.

As you can see, it is very difficult for women to go back to work: bosses think they will be absent too often, and since they do not want this, they do not welcome mothers with small children. When the children grow up, the problem is that the women are not as young as the girls the bosses are looking for to occupy the available positions, especially for some jobs.

In this and other cases, age is a very important factor for employers. Sometimes the most important thing besides physical appearance. There is a maximum age, even for professionals, with experience and qualifications being secondary. You may think that starting a business, especially for the ones that have studied administration-related careers would be a solution, but the likelihood of success in this area is low for women at this moment here in Lima. Why? You need capital. And most of them do not have it (that is one of the reasons, if not the most important one for why they are looking for a job). Even if they manage to find capital, their business would be small, and the big ones would ¨eat¨ it.

Still, many women try this route repeatedly, until none of the people to whom they turn (generally their parents) has money to risk.

The unfair situation for women has also extended beyond this.

On November 15, 2017, Congress approved a Labor Regulation “that forbids wage discrimination between men and women. This standard establishes that the entities offering jobs must guarantee equal terms between men and women in their staff selection processes as well as in pay packages.

The norm also requires that in the work training programs 50% of the participants must be women. It says additionally that the entity offering the job must assure that sexual harassment is prevented.1 We are having many problems with this at the present time in our city.

We want this labor law to be obeyed, but legal experts think that in some cases it will be impossible for the companies to comply.

We need the Peruvian authorities to adopt another law forbidding employers from asking job-seekers about their age, especially women.

On the other hand, men’s occupational situation is better here, since a higher percentage of men have a job. Nonetheless, it is also uncertain as many of them are not sure about the security of their positions, for the reasons discussed below.

Reasons for job insecurity

The disasters in several Peruvian provinces as well as the corruption scandal in which the troublemaker has been Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company, have contributed to the high rate of unemployment existing in our country.

According to the admissions of the Brazilian ex-CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht, who has come to an agreement on cooperating with the Peruvian authorities, “the company had a policy of financing presidential candidates with a chance of winning, the purpose being that if one of them acceded to power, the construction company would have an open invitation to undertake projects in the country.”2

All that this ex-CEO has declared in court is being investigated, and, meanwhile, the public projects that they were handling in our country have stopped. Unfortunately, these were the most important public projects.

But Odebrecht did not carry out its projects alone; it had joint ventures with Peruvian construction companies, forming groups for the execution of such public projects.

The ex-CEO has declared that the person who was in direct contact with their Peruvian authorities was Jorge Barata, the Odebrecht Branch Manager for Peru. Now, Barata may also come to an agreement on cooperating with the Peruvian investigators. On December 2nd, he confessed to the way in which they operated to win the tender contract for the South Interoceanic Highway public works project. He said that $20 million was given to Alejandro Toledo, the Peruvian ex-President who was governing Peru at that time, as a bribe to obtain the winning bid. He added that, after a year, when their associated companies received their earnings, each made a “contribution.”

The problem for us is that these companies provide jobs for thousands of Peruvians, and since December 4, their five business owners are in pre-trial detention.

Fortunately, the reconstruction following the disasters in several Peruvian provinces has made this year a little better for the companies engaged in construction related fields, for example bathroom fittings and sanitary products. However, the reconstruction is going slowly because a few years ago there was a change in the governance structure and it was rushed, the consequence being that the governors chosen for each region have not been very well selected and many of them have fallen prey to corruption.

Since nothing has been done in almost a year, the person leading the reconstruction was recently replaced, although he was a respectable man. He said that he has been preparing the list of affected inhabitants and planning the reconstruction of the homes and community services damaged by the disasters, but, a whole year or more had passed and actual work had not begun.

In short, there is work in Lima and Peru in general, but it is limited, problematic for women and many of the positions are for unskilled labor or technicians.

It is all very uncertain.

Martha Corzo Castañeda

Works cited

1 El Comercio “Sanción contra la Violencia.” November 16, 2017.

2 Cronica Viva. “Odebrecht afirma que financió campaña de Keiko.” November 10, 2017.