📊 STEM Graduates, Telefónica, and Crypto Adoption
Welcome to Latinometrics. We bring you Latin American insights and trends through concise, thought-provoking data visualizations.
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LatAm is ripe with the talent that tech companies need
Spain’s telecom giant and its regional presence
How big is crypto in your country?
Make sure you check out the comment of the week at the bottom!
Let’s say you run a large biotech firm in San Diego and you’re looking to expand your team. Where might you look for early-career professionals hoping to cut their teeth with some entry-level work experience? Japan? Taiwan? The Netherlands?
Try closer to home: Latin America has some of the brightest college graduates in the world. The number of students attending university has exploded in the last half-century. Today the region is seeing an increasingly educated workforce as a result—including in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM).
Based on the most recent figures from UNESCO, many Latin American countries are seeing growing numbers of students head down the STEM path. Peru leads the pack, with just shy of 30% of graduates pursuing a STEM degree. This puts the Andean country of 33M people within spitting distance of South Korea, a country that for decades has been known for its highly-educated and highly-skilled workforce.
Following Peru, we’ve got Mexico, with roughly a quarter of their college students graduating with a STEM degree, placing Latin America’s industrial powerhouse somewhere between the highly-developed countries of Switzerland and Israel. Falling in a range of 20-24%, Colombia, El Salvador, Chile, and Ecuador all see higher percentages than the United States, which might explain why so many engineers and scientists from these countries work for US-based firms following graduation.
Of course, we champion Latin Americans getting degrees and upgrading to higher-skilled work with better pay. For too long, the world’s biggest companies have looked to Northern Europe and East Asia for their high-skilled talent pools, and we’d like to see Latin Americans be considered for these jobs. Ideally, companies won’t just recruit the best of the best to bring to Boston or Vienna but also set up sites to grow their business within the region, preventing local brain drain in the process.
At the same time, STEM shouldn't become the path for all university students just due to employment prospects—after all, Latin America stills needs its lawyers, economists, writers, artists, teachers, and entrepreneurs, especially if those are their callings. But we applaud local engineers making ever-bigger splashes across the region and beyond, and we look forward to Dominican or Argentine scientists ushering in a brighter tomorrow.
If you're reading this from somewhere bordering the Atlantic right now, you're probably using mobile data provided by some subsidiary of Telefónica, Spain's 2nd-largest company and the world's 8th-largest mobile network operator by number of subscriptions. The Madrid-headquartered firm has been a major player across Latin American telecommunications for decades.
How major a player? Telefónica runs the largest privately-owned fixed-line operator in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, while being a distant second in Mexico. Not too shabby for a company hitting its 100th birthday next April.
Telefónica may have seen its general revenues fall in Q1 of this year compared to the previous quarter. But the Hispam division, which covers Spanish-speaking Latin America, grew by an impressive 6.3%, making it the best-performing division in the company. The company fared particularly well in the major markets of Colombia and Chile.
Meanwhile, the multinational’s Brazilian subsidiary, Vivo, has performed the best in annual growth, seeing a revenue increase of 17.5% over the previous year. Vivo was helped by the burgeoning launch of 5G across Brazil, with high demand for new terminals strengthening business. By the end of March, Telefónica’s service covered 58 cities nationwide.
Taken together, Telefónica's Latin American holdings brought in an estimated 4.5B euro in the quarter, representing just shy of 40% of total revenues. This number exceeds the revenues in Spain (the company's home country) and Germany (its largest European market). And while its total global revenues of roughly 11.5B euro were smaller than anticipated, keep in mind that inflation is causing some labor and IT equipment costs to outpace price increases in this year's economy.
In any case, it's clear that Telefónica is not going anywhere and that the firm's subsidiaries west of the Atlantic—particularly Brazil's Vivo—will only continue to grow in value for the firm.
We were bummed that there was no data for Venezuela in Chainalysis' report on crypto adoption. Many hypothesize that countries with troubled currencies are more likely to seek cryptocurrencies as an alternate form of handling money. We see that to some extent, with Argentina's ranking 2nd in LatAm — the country has inflation rates that no one can quite keep up with.
Up next is Ecuador, which according to Chainalysis, has embraced crypto more than Germany or Japan. The reason for this may be the country's historically unstable situation.
From 1997 to 2005, no elected president managed to serve out a full term.
Relative instability turned into genuine instability when president Guillermo Lasso dissolved the country's congress last month to avoid impeachment. One can't blame an Ecuadorian for continuing to place at least some of their money into crypto or other perceived "safe havens" as they see their institutions collapse under the direction of one unpopular man.
Brazil occupying the #1 spot in LatAm (and #7 worldwide) is more of a head-scratcher. One potential explanation could be the country's increasing access to financial solutions — 85% of the eligible population, according to some estimates. This could indicate that the population is more financially mature and thus adopt crypto as an alternative investment.
Bolivia and Peru are higher up on the chart than El Salvador, a country that has promised so much potential and even made Bitcoin a legal tender in 2021. The country occupying an unimpressive rank on the list signals that Nayib Bukele's whole Bitcoin pump and narrative may not be working as he hoped. Research shows that El Salvador's Chivo launch (a wallet launched by the government to hold and exchange Bitcoin) was lackluster:
Despite free Bitcoin and discounted gasoline for those downloading and using the cryptocurrency app, downloads have stalled, and use in daily life is not widespread.
Realize Latin America’s Potential 🚀
This week’s opportunity:
Telefónica added 78 job postings on LinkedIn across LatAm in the past week
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That’s all for this week 👋
The comment of the week was a link to a YouTube video that explores How Mexico is Becoming the New China in more detail, from one of our favorite channels, Wendover Productions. This in response to our Mexico vs. China manufacturing chart on LinkedIn.
Feedback or chart suggestions? Reply to this email, and let us know. 😁