By: Juan Camilo Cock M. – Executive Director Alvaralice Foundation
The impact of COVID-19 has been twofold. In terms of health, it has brought serious complications to many in Cali and caused the death of a small percentage of those infected with the virus, especially the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions. The speed with which the virus is spreading, moreover, has strained the health system and hampered the ability to care for those with complications from the disease. In economic terms, the measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, including mandatory isolation and the closure of activities that involve large gatherings, have generated the biggest economic crisis in decades.
Populations that have historically suffered the most marginalization and poverty have been disproportionately affected. In Cali, as in other Colombian cities, the neighborhoods with the highest numbers of positive cases are located, for the most part, in the areas with the highest levels of poverty and marginalization. The National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) reported that there were almost nearly 5 million fewer people employed in May 2020, compared to the same month a year ago. In May 2020, one in five people were unemployed, as the unemployment rate rose to 21%. Young people, women, and people with low educational levels were the most impacted by the job losses. In other words, the economic impact has been felt most strongly among those who historically have been excluded.
The indicators in June show a slight improvement and the national government has adopted measures to supplement the income of the poorest populations and protect employment as well as to reactivate the economy and mitigate the negative impacts of the crisis. Despite these efforts, it is important to find ways to ensure that the recovery is inclusive as economic activity resumes. Analysts warn of the existing risk that the recovery will exclude those marginalized sectors historically excluded and who have been hardest hit by the crisis. With this in mind, employability programs like Rumbo Joven, which the Alvaralice Foundation started in 2014, will have an key role to play. In first place, we must ensure that the most vulnerable populations have the capacities and skills required by the labor market, especially in the sectors that are recovering most strongly. Second, it is necessary to work with employers to emphasize the importance of hiring young people, women, ethnically diverse populations, and those with fewer educational opportunities.
Rumbo Joven works specifically with these populations. The program is focused on youth entering the workforce for the first time, and from neighborhoods where there are fewer educational opportunities. Most of those entering the program are women and Afro Colombians. During the first six years of operation, Rumbo Joven has successfully placed many of its participants in formal jobs. If we want to limit the lost ground in the against poverty, it’s absolutely necessary for those hardest hit by the crisis and those historically excluded to be part of an inclusive recovery.