[Excerpt] To summarize, the region still cannot overcome the 1980s “foreign debt crisis”. The moderate and unstable recovery that took place in the 1990s was not enough to compensate for the deterioration experienced in 1985. A comparison between the labour performance of those countries in 1985 and 2000, shows that five are in better shape (Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Uruguay), six are faring worse (Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela), while four (Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Panama) remain at the same level of labour progress recorded in the mid-80s.
Nevertheless, the outlook for the year 2001 is more encouraging. GDP growth projections for 2001 point at a persistent process of economic recovery in all the countries under review. A regional 4.2% rate of growth that would drive the unemployment rate down to 8.1% has been projected. The exception is Mexico, where growth would decrease, although still at rates over the regional average, and the unemployment rate would continue to be the lowest in the region. Notwithstanding the expected drop in unemployment, several countries will show over two-digit rates: Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador will register between 14% and 17.5%; Uruguay and Venezuela between 12% and 13%. Only Brazil, Chile and Mexico will remain below the regional average (8.1%).