Unemployment In Guatemala: Stress Index

A recent article by Bloomberg caught my attention. The article placed Guatemala right in the middle of the list of the top 10 most “stressed-out” countries in the world. Nigeria, South Africa, El Salvador, and Mongolia were above Guatemala, while Colombia, Pakistan, Jamaica, Macedonia, and Bolivia rounded out the list, in that order.The US, if you must know, checks in at number 54 on the list, while Norway sits at the bottom as the most stress-free country in the world.

The US, if you must know, checks in at number 54 on the list, while Norway sits at the bottom as the most stress-free country in the world.

Unemployment in Guatemala

With such high unemployment in Guatemala, any job will do

To rank each country, Bloomberg assigns points to the following categories:

  • Annual homicide rate per 100,000 (Guatemala is third among the top 10 with 38.5 while El Salvador blows everyone else on the entire list away with 69.2 – which right away told me the list was incomplete since Honduras was nowhere to be found).
  • GDP per Capita ($3,415 for Guatemala for seventh among the top 10).
  • Income Inequality (Guatemala is eighth – no surprise there).
  • Corruption (Guatemala is third on the top 10 – I expected higher. In fact, Antigua’s Mayor was recently arrested for corruption and is now in jail awaiting trial. But I guess is hard to top Nigeria and Pakistan).
  • Unemployment (Guatemala has the lowest unemployment rate among those on the top 10 at 4.5%).
  • Urban Pollution (Guatemala is second cleanest).
  • Life Expectancy (Middle of the pack with 69).

The one that jumped out at me was the unemployment rate because it seems unusually low. One constant complaint I always hear is that there aren’t enough jobs available here, especially for young people. A whopping 59% of men are underemployed, meaning they’re in a job beneath their skill level. For women that number is 40%.

A little digging around on the net reveals how the government arrives at their unemployment figure. Curiously, the government here classifies anyone involved in any job, no matter how menial, as part of the “Poblacion Economicamente Activa”, or Economically Active Population.

Many women are not counted as part of the unemployed population either, as they are labeled “housewives”, even though they often are the hardest working person in the household. Anyone who is getting money in any way, shape, or form is “employed” according to the government.

Which leads me to Tin Man, the man pictured above. Tin Man, as I’ve dubbed him, works at Antigua’s Parque Central as a busker on weekends. I know he does the same thing in Guatemala City’s Sexta Avenida during the week because I’ve seen him there as well. Does the government here classify him as employed or unemployed? By their definition, I guess he has a “job”.

In Guatemala, promises for more employment come and go each election. Whether the government sees the population as employed, or unemployed, in the end, it doesn’t matter to the average citizen. People here do what they have to do to survive no matter what the unemployment number says. That, I bet, causes more stress than any other statistic Bloomberg can cobble together.

And so Tin Man, along with millions of other Guatemalans, will go to work every day.

Job satisfaction is likely to never be part of the equation for a good number of them. The only thing they can do is to put up a brave front and do whatever they can to support their families since no unemployment check from the government is likely to ever come their way.

And then they say Tin Man has no heart.

*****

See more about living in Antigua Guatemala here.

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