Honduras Table of Contents
Between 1980 and 1983, 20 percent of the work force was unemployed--double the percentage of the late 1970s. Job creation remained substantially behind the growth of the labor force throughout the 1980s. Unemployment grew to 25 percent by 1985, and combined unemployment and underemployment jumped to 40 percent in 1989. By 1993, 50 to 60 percent of the Honduran labor force was estimated to be either underemployed or unemployed.
The government's acceptance of foreign aid during the 1980s, in lieu of economic growth sparked by private investment, allowed it to ignore the necessity of creating new jobs. Honduras's GDP showed reasonable growth throughout most of the 1980s, especially when compared to the rest of Latin America, but it was artificially buoyed by private consumption and public-sector spending.
Mainstay agricultural jobs became scarcer in the late 1970s. Coffee harvests and plantings in border area decreased because fighting in neighboring Nicaragua and El Salvador spilled over into Honduran. Other factors contributing to the job scarcity were limited land, a reluctance on the part of coffee growers to invest while wars destabilized the region, and a lack of credit. Small farmers became increasingly unable to support themselves as their parcels of land diminished in size and productivity.
Problems in the agricultural sector have fueled urbanization. The Honduran population was 77 percent rural in 1960. By 1992 only 55 percent of the Honduran population continued to live in rural areas (see Rural to Urban Migration , ch. 2). Campesinos have flocked to the cities in search of work but found little there. Overall unemployment has been exacerbated by an influx of refugees from the wars in neighboring countries, attracted to Honduras, ironically, by its relatively low population density and relative peace. In the agricultural sector (which in 1993 still accounted for approximately 60 percent of the labor force), unemployment has been estimated to be far worse than the figures for the total labor force.
Honduran urban employment in the early 1990s has been characterized by underemployment and marginal informal-sector jobs, as thousands of former agricultural workers and refugees have moved to the cities seeking better lives. Few new jobs have been generated in the formal sector, however, because domestic private sector and foreign investment has dropped and coveted public-sector jobs have been reserved mostly for the small Honduran middle-class with political or military connections. Only one of ten Honduran workers was securely employed in the formal sector in 1991.
In the mid-1980s, the World Bank reported that only 10,000 new jobs were created annually; the low rate of job creation resulted in 20,000 people being added to the ranks of the unemployed every year. The actual disparity between jobs needed for full employment and new jobs created exceeded that projection, however. For those with jobs, the buying power of their wages tumbled throughout the 1980s while the cost of basic goods, especially food, climbed precipitously.
Data as of December 1993