Interview: Chile has overcome high unemployment from 2010 quake

February 23, 2012 11:41 am 

SANTIAGO, Feb. 23 — Chile has managed to bring under control its high unemployment following the devastating 2010 earthquake that left 45,000 people without jobs in the six regions worst affected, Labor Minister Evelyn Matthei said Wednesday.

Two years after the 9.0-magnitude quake, which hit southern Chile in January 2010, unemployment today is below the figures seen in the period just after the earthquake, Matthei told Xinhua in an interview.

"For a country like China this number wouldn't mean anything because it's a country with a large population, but for Chile it was a lot and we are very happy because we have worked well in these two years to recover these jobs," she said.

Matthei said the administration of President Sebastian Pinera has prioritizedjob creation "because many people had lost their homes and their sources of employment and they didn't have anything to live with" in the post-quake difficult period.

"So, immediately after the quake, the government created emergency jobs, but now the industry is recovering on its own so we are doing good," she said.

She said the fishery industry, which suffered particularly hard because of the tsunami that followed shortly after the earthquake, has now seen boats being rebuilt, tools being replaced and the overall industry being restructured.

"Many of them suffered great damage due to the tsunami that came after the earthquake. The reconstruction works of the fishery industry has been supported with both private capital and government investment," said Matthei.

The fishery issue is complicated in Chile where even before the 2010 earthquake the industry was suffering because of "a decrease in the fishing which worries us a lot because for a long time there was over-fishing," said Matthei.

Small and medium-sized enterprises that were also affected by the 2010 earthquake, meanwhile, have received help from the state-run Corporation of Industrial Promotion (CORFO).

Matthei is one of the ministers who accompanied Pinera on a work tour to review the reconstruction works in the six affected regions where the president earlier this week handed over 138 new homes.

"The recovery of the employment as well as the recovery of infrastructure including schools, hospitals, homes and public works is an example of how fast this reconstruction of the country has been going on," she said.

Experts from the World Bank told Chilean officials that "even in countries which are more developed than us, after a catastrophe like the one we suffered, the reconstruction works last an average of 10 years," she said.

"In Chile, we will achieve the full reconstruction in a period of four years, this is less than half of the general average — an incredible achievement," the minister said.

Meanwhile, Matthei said that despite Chile's remarkable record on job creation and the current low unemployment rate of less than 7 percent, the country needs to improve more.

"We want to lower that percentage and we want the workers to have better jobs, better wages and especially the opportunity to improve throughout their lives, and that is why we insist on strengthening their training," said Matthei. (PNA/Xinhua)

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