Labor issues influence all of El Salvador. It’s common to see people on the sides of streets selling goods like food, electronics, and other products. It’s also common to see local artisan markets. These markets offer people a form of income based on tangible skills, such as sewing, crafting, or create art–and this just represents the informal sector. In the formal sector, individuals, groups, and labor unions also struggle to earn an adequate living in the neoliberalized (privatized) systems of employment. As of June 2014, the national formal unemployment rates are roughly triple the U.S.A.’s at 16-20%.

Local farmers

Local farmers

What are the social justice issues?
With a large informal sector, resource limitations, and the privatization of several sectors of the economy, many people remain unemployed or underemployed. People therefore face issues of poverty, hunger, and little-to-no medical care, as well as many other issues as a result. Education plays an important role in this too. It’s difficult to find work if one has a limited formal education, and these limits also impede the growth of businesses, organizations, and the necessary leadership to make changes.

We visited many artisan markets and dialogued with farmers and local entrepreneurs about this topic. Similar to the U.S.A., hard work does not always pay off. Equitable opportunity remains an issue. What if one has a physical disability? What about being a female in a male-dominated environment? What about small business start-up funds? Such issues can also compound, making life that much more challenging.

Capitalism–and more specifically the neoliberal economic policies–significantly influence the labor force. The “trickle down” effect hardly trickles down to the majority of people. Much like the U.S.A., this “trickle down” effect (Reganomics) allows the top 1% of the population to control and retain new income, while much of the other 99% struggles to earn an income and meet their basic human needs.

Luckily, we were able to visit and dialogue about these topics with a few local organizations and businesses. The picture below was taken at a pottery store that employs people with physical disabilities. This model of institutional support can be found in the U.S.A. as well–those that generate institutional employment for the underserved. As I reflect, this visit reminds me to “vote with my funds”, or in other words, to choose justly-employed business models in its many modalities.

An employee a pottery organization for disabled persons

An employee at the pottery organization

A street vendor

A street vendor


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