Chile is the world’s #1 producer of copper. When mining makes up over 50% of your exports, there is a natural cap on GDP. Eventually, the raw materials will run out.
While copper is far from tapped out in Chile, it is never too early to start making plans for a more sustainable future. Chile’s economy has been slowing down for years, hitting just a 1.2% GDP growth rate in 2017. Despite Chile’s investments in technology and innovation, which are meant to jumpstart the economy for the future, their reliance on raw materials has taken a toll.
So why should you care? After all, Chile is far away, and contributes only meekly to the global economy.
Dependence on natural resource exports is a global dilemma, and Chile is just a small part of it. Skilled manufacturing--which often requires a technical degree, but not a university education--has the potential to boost Chile’s economy in the short run while it transitions to a white collar, professional system.
This is why you should be paying attention to the shift from raw material extraction to skilled manufacturing in Chile (and in the world!).
Just 33% of working age Chileans have a tertiary education, and only 19% graduate from university programs. This leaves a large percentage of skilled workers who are excluded from the professional career track, but who can add value to the economy through complex production processes. A skilled worker in Chile earns 160% more during their lifetime than someone who only has secondary level education. Skilled manufacturing creates well-paid jobs for the thousands of people that graduate from technical programs in Chile every year.
Luckily, unemployment is relatively low in Chile. However, the 6.2% statistic can be misleading; in the poorest areas of the country, like Southern Chile, unemployment sometimes reaches 50%, especially for youth. At TTANTI, we have invested in creating jobs for skilled manufacturers across Chile because this work boosts the Chilean economy and creates opportunity in poorer regions. As more skilled work becomes available, young people are driven to pursue technical or tertiary education to be able to participate more fully in the workforce.
Countries are known for their exports. Much like a personal brand, a country’s national production reflects on its values and global importance. We want Chile to be known for high-quality products; we already gain global recognition for our wine and fish, and Patagonia is known for its shocking natural beauty. Bringing the beauty of Patagonia into manufactured products with global appeal is a way to bring recognition to artisans and workers of this region, who are often overlooked.
The old adage goes: you should never put too many eggs in one basket. Chile may be a massive copper exporter, but simple exports don’t bring long-term economic growth. Just look at global examples of other mineral exporting countries (especially those that export petroleum) to see that raw exports often equal instability. Skilled manufacturing can create long-term value in Chile’s economy by diversifying exports and increasing the value of those exports. Rather than relying on the value of minerals, which fluctuate constantly, Chile can develop and support a strong labor force and grow on the basis of its talented people.
Raw material exports have supported the global economy for decades. As the world’s largest producer of copper, and a major producer of timber, gold, silver, and lithium, Chile fits well into the global pattern. However, the economic growth produced by natural resource exports is limited. In order to create skilled jobs, build a strong reputation, and generate recognition for Chile, it is time to look to high-quality, skilled manufacturing as the logical step. Chile may be a small country, but its transition to value-added production is reflected across the globe.
At TTANTI, all the wood used to produce our watches comes from reclaimed wood in Patagonia. Skilled artisans shape the wood using high-caliber machinery, then sand the material by hand to give it a smooth finish. The leather used to produce our bands is Chilean, and is processed in country. We are proud to produce a fully-Chilean product, employing Chilean workers, that is sold on the global market. To support Patagonian production, see our collection here.