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[Excerpt] The 2008 Labour Overview for Latin America and the Caribbean is special. This edition provides evidence of the effects of an unprecedented international crisis that has cast a shadow over the global economy and is reflected in the employment situation in the region. Employment will be a challenge in 2009. As ILO Director-General, Juan Somavia stated, “The ILO’s message is realistic, not alarmist” with respect to this situation.

It should be stressed that this crisis is not hitting the region at a bad time. The region has experienced several years of favourable economic growth, which has had a direct impact on the employment situation. The 2008 Labour Overview indicates that unemployment diminished for the fifth consecutive year, permitting Latin America and the Caribbean to reach unemployment rates not seen since 1992.

The 2008 Labour Overview also includes a study on micro, small and medium-sized establishments (MSME) in the era of globalization. This study reveals a visible decent work deficit in this key segment of the Latin American economy, where two-thirds of regional employment is concentrated. This affects the sector’s capacity to increase productivity and competitiveness and contributes to poverty and the high level of income inequality in the region. The 2008 Labour Overview summarizes the regional policies and actions targeting MSME that have been adopted in the ILO’s 2006-2015 Regional Agenda for Decent Work in the Americas and provides examples of good practices in this area.