Public Employment Programs

Public Employment Programs

Two public employment programs affected the labor market during the period of economic reforms between 1975 and 1987. The Minimum Employment Program (Programa de Empleo Mínimo--PEM) was created in 1975 at a time when unemployment had reached record levels. The program, administered by local governments, paid a small salary to unemployed workers, who, for a few hours a week, performed menial public works. At first, the government tightly restricted entry into the program. Gradually, most of these restrictions were lifted, and a larger number of unemployed people were allowed to participate. Thus, the proportion of the labor force employed by the program remained virtually constant between 1977 and 1981, despite the economic recovery and a reduction in the real value of PEM compensation.

When Chile entered a new and more severe recession, the number of individuals employed by PEM in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago increased from about 23,000 in May 1982 to 93,000 in May 1983. An Employment Program for Heads of Households (Programa de Ocupación para Jefes de Hogar--POJH), created in October 1982, employed about 100,000 individuals in the greater Santiago area by May 1983. The two programs combined absorbed more than 10 percent of the labor force of the greater Santiago area in May 1983. These programs were also implemented in other regions of the country. The PEM program was cut back drastically in February 1984. Likewise, by December 1988, there were only about 5,000 individuals employed by the POJH in the entire country.

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