Work and workers in contemporary Mexico: Trabajo y Trabajadores en el Mexico Contemporaneo

Share this page:

Work and workers in contemporary Mexico

[Trabajo y Trabajadores en el Mexico Contemporaneo]

by (in alphabetical order):
Graciela Bensusan, Enrique de la Garza, Enrique Hernández Laos,
Teresa Rendón, and Carlos Salas

Executive Summary

The state of working Mexico depends crucially on the capacity of the national economy to generate jobs of sufficient number and quality to provide the population with a higher standard of living. This report reviews a wide range of information on employment creation, wages, household incomes, labor law, work organization, and workers’ organizations, all of which speak to the ability of the Mexican economy to generate the number and kinds of jobs that are necessary to ensure a decent standard of living for the vast majority of the country’s citizens. Taken together, the data indicate that the Mexican economy and, in particular, the development path that the country has followed in the 1990s, has failed to provide the opportunities necessary to lift the country out of poverty.

Employment trends in Mexico

We begin with an analysis of the evolution of employment,1 distinguishing between two time periods. The first period (1970-90) includes the final days of a model of accumulation that had been in effect since the 1930s, the subsequent crisis, and the beginning of a radical shift in economic development strategy. The second period (the 1990s) is characterized by the consolidation of new economic policies that place a blind faith in market forces and have resulted in the state’s abandonment of many of its substantive responsibilities.

Between 1970 and 1990, remunerated employment grew at an average annual rate of 3.2%. This pace was set primarily by nonagricultural activities. The agricultural sector’s ability to create employment was insignificant, generating only 3.4% of new jobs. During the 1980s, the growth rate in industrial jobs declined due to the economic stagnation and the restructuring process beginning at that time. Simultaneously, there was an unprecedented increase in small-scale activities (individual or family), especially in commerce and other services, further reinforcing the tendency towards growth in the service sectors.

During those two decades, the agricultural sector showed a decline in the number of salaried workers and an increase in the number of non-salaried workers. In nonagricultural activities, on the other hand, the relative weight of salaried work continued to increase, although at a slower rate each year.

During the 1990s, as in the previous decade, employment continued to grow at a faster rate than both production and the working age population. This permitted an increase in the overall economic activity rate2 in the urbanized areas.3 Between 1991 and 1997, that rate went from 53% to 57%, due primarily to the growth of women in the labor force. However, it is necessary to look at both the number of new jobs and also at the characteristics of those jobs.

The most dynamic group of workers were unpaid family workers, a group that registered an average annual growth rate of 6.3%. Salaried workers, on the other hand, had the lowest growth rate (2.2% per year – less than the growth of the working age population). Non-salaried work explains 43% of the increase in employment, and 38% of all new jobs came from low-income individual or family establishments.

Not only is there a slow growth rate in salaried jobs, but there has also been a deterioration in the quality of those jobs, something which is made clear by the fact that one-fifth of the growth corresponded to jobs in which wages are paid on a piece-work basis. Further evidence of the deterioration in working conditions among salaried workers in urban areas can be found in the growth in the percentage of workers without benefits (jumping from 23% to 31%) and the decline in social security coverage (dropping from 71% to 63%) between 1991 and 1997. If salaried workers from less urbanized areas are included, the percentage of people without benefits and access to social security is even greater.

Access to salaried jobs varies according to age. The percentage of salaried workers in the working population tends to decrease consistently every year for women over 25 years of age and for men over 30. Although the most significant drops occur for those over 60, only 47% of working men and 36% of working women between the ages of 50 and 54 are salaried workers, indicating that workers have increased difficulty retaining salaried jobs as they get older. For women, in addition to the restrictions of the labor market itself, there is also the disadvantage that comes from the traditional division of labor that gives women the primary responsibility for child care and administration of the home. This limits women’s participation in salaried work, since most salaried jobs in Mexico are full time.

Leaving salaried work at an early age makes retirement difficult within the current social security framework, since workers are supposed to have contributed to the system for a minimum of 25 years in order to have access to their pension.

In terms of employment growth by sector, the service sector has generated a growing number of new jobs. At the same time, there is a decrease in new jobs in the manufacturing sector. Of the total new jobs created between 1991 and 1997 in the urbanized areas, only 15% corresponded to the manufacturing industry, while commerce and the various other services contributed 92% of the new salaried jobs and 70% of the non-salaried jobs.

The dynamism of employment in the service sector can be explained by two factors. On the one hand, new investments – especially that of national capital – tend to be concentrated in commerce and services much more than they were in the past, since domestic agricultural and industrial production now have to compete with imported products. On the other hand, the survival strategies adopted to counteract the fall in real salaries and the poor growth in salaried jobs have led to an unusual rise in small-scale activities and non-salaried work, especially in commerce and certain services, such as food preparation, repair activities, and transportation. All of the available sources indicate that during the 1990s, small-scale activities increased at a much faster pace than the rest of the economy, and that non-salaried work had a greater dynamism than salaried work.

The downward slide of the national manufacturing sector as a source of employment has been partially compensated for by the expansion of the maquila export industry. Growth in this area was explosive, especially after 1996. In 1999, an average of 1,131,316 people were working each month in maquilas. Estimates are that in 1998, 27% of all jobs in manufacturing sector establishments were maquila jobs. It should be emphasized, however, that the average monthly salary in the maquila industry is always less than the average monthly salary reported by the Monthly Industrial Survey for non-maquila industries.

The purchasing power of workers is, without a doubt, one of the principal indicators of job quality. After about 25 years of continuous growth in real wages, workers’ purchasing power began to decline at the end of the 1970s. It dropped more sharply in the next decade due to the effects of the debt crisis.

During the 1990s, both self-employed workers and salaried workers saw their real income dwindle, even as the income disparity within each group rose. According to the re
sults of the National Employment Survey, salaries dropped again between 1991 and 1997. Self-employed workers experienced a much greater loss of income in almost all industries and occupations where non-salaried work coexists with salaried work.

In 1991, the average income level of self-employed workers was higher than that of salaried workers in most industries and occupations. In fact, all self-employed workers together earned an average of 16% more than salaried workers per hour worked. Six years later, however, the average income of the self-employed dropped to 20% less than that of salaried workers. In 1997, there were fewer industries and occupations where self-employed workers were earning more, on average, than salaried workers. This drastic reduction in the income of self-employed workers could indicate an over-saturation in the supply of the goods and services that they offer.

The average hourly income of all salaried workers fell 18%, but the decrease varied according to industry and occupation. In some activities, the fall was dramatic (especially in public administration, the garment industry, and other services). In other areas -especially carbon extraction and processing, basic metals industries, embassies and international organizations, communications, and financial services – the average salary lost between 3% and 6% of its purchasing power. In still other areas – such as the petro-chemical industry, electricity, educational services, petroleum and natural gas extraction, and textiles – salary increases were evident although at varying levels.

The occupations that showed the most deterioration in their salaries were public employees, domestic workers, and transportation workers, reflecting the weak bargaining power of these groups. The first two groups were already among the lowest paid at the beginning of the survey’s time period. Relatively high-wage groups, on the other hand, fared the best. Most of them (professionals, technicians, office workers, supervisors and managers in industries and services) experienced a salary decrease that was less than the national average. Higher ranking office workers, along with workers in the education sector, managed to keep their real salaries intact. Despite the 23% drop in the purchasing power of the average management level salary from 1991 to 1997, these workers continued to have much higher salaries than the average worker.

While it is true that less income inequality between men and women was recorded from 1991 to 1997 among both self-employed and salaried workers, the shrinking of the gap was not the result of better pay for women’s work. Rather, it was due to the fall in real income among men in different industries and occupations, which, on average, was greater than the fall in women’s incomes.

Other sources of data on wages also show the persistency of a generalized deterioration in salaries during the 1990s. For example, figures from the Mexican Social Security Institute from 1994 to 1999, show a 25% accumulated deterioration in the average salary covered by the Mexican social security system. Most of the drop occurred during the first three years of that period, and the recent recovery has been very slow (on the order of 1.1% annually). The construction industry and industries providing services for companies and individuals showed the greatest deterioration in salaries.

The fact that work is the primary source of income for the majority of Mexican families – who also have little savings and no unemployment insurance – means that work-related problems in Mexico may not be best reflected by open unemployment rates but rather by an increase in the precarious nature of salaried and non-salaried jobs and the growth in the number of income-earners per family.4

The proliferation of small-scale activities, the increase in unpaid family labor and paid piecework labor, as well as the increase in the working population without access to benefits are all clear signs of the deteriorating quality of available jobs. Another expression of the precarious nature of work is the increased length of the work day. In both salaried and non-salaried work, jobs with normal working hours (between 35 and 48 hours a week) grew at a much smaller rate than marginal work and overtime work. While growth in marginal work can be observed principally in the categories of self-employment and unpaid work, the new jobs with overtime hours showed an especially high level of growth among salaried workers (both those paid by the hour and those paid per piece) and among managers.

The increase in working hours among salaried workers can be attributed to a business strategy of lowering costs; but working extra hours is also a way for the worker to partially counteract falling wages.

In the case of non-salaried workers, the increase in marginal work and the lengthening of the work day are a reflection of strategies used by working families to confront falling incomes through a more intensive use of the available labor market opportunities.

The decrease in salaries and the increase in labor market flexibility have not had the effect that neoclassical theory would lead us to expect, which would be an increased demand for labor. On the contrary, it has provoked an increase in the labor supply. Since family income has fallen, people who at another times might have dedicated themselves exclusively to study or to domestic tasks in the home have had to become involved in the production or sale of goods. This is reflected in the consistent increase in economic activity rates among young men and among women of all ages. Another indicator of the greater supply of labor is the increase in the number of people employed per household, which, according to the National Survey on Household Income and Expenses, rose from 1.59 workers per family in 1984 to 1.72 in 1996.

The imbalance that exists in the Mexican labor market is also expressed in the increase in migration of Mexicans to the United States and in the increase in the number of people between 12 and 59 years of age who are classified as “other inactives.” This classification refers to those who are neither working nor looking for work, neither in school nor engaged in domestic work in the home, and who are neither receiving a pension nor unable to work because of a disability. This group of people, whom we call “idle inactives,” includes 722,000 men and 386,000 women according to the 1999 National Employment Survey. The number of idle inactive men was almost double that of the number of openly unemployed men in that age group,5 and in the case of women it was 1.3 times greater than the number of unemployed.

Income distribution and poverty in Mexico

Next we look at long-term trends for income distribution and poverty, examining evidence from over four decades. Our analysis uses the surveys on household income and expenses (using ENIGH data). A time series analysis that begins in 1963 and ends in 19966 establishes that, during the time of accelerated growth, the household income distribution grew more equal. In this time period the concentration of income was reduced in the 9th and 10th deciles and shifted to other households, especially to those in the middle and upper-mid levels of the income distribution (5th to 8th deciles). The real income of the entire population grew, although with varying intensity. The average income for Mexicans grew at an average annual 2% rate, which is a little more than 50% over 21 years.

While the tendency toward less inequality was maintained during the first years of the crisis, there was an abrupt reversal after 1984. From 1984 to 1989, a majority of households e
xperienced a decrease in their share of the national income as a result of a fall in the absolute terms of real income per capita. The greatest losses corresponded to households in the 5th to 9th deciles. The poorest groups increased their share in household income by an insignificant fraction, while the participation of richest (10th decile) grew by 11 percentage points, since the per-capita income of these households registered a 36% increase.

During the 1990s, the income distribution among families became less unequal. Nevertheless, this recent trend toward less inequality can probably best be explained by the general level of impoverishment of the population, that is “lowering inequality by increasing impoverishment.” The fall in real income that occurred, primarily because of the acute economic crisis of 1995-1996, was proportionally greater among groups with the greatest income (from the 7th to the 10th deciles).

Mexican society has been, and continues to be, polarized and unequal. During the last 33 years – small variations not withstanding – the average per-capita income of the wealthiest 10% of the population has been 30 times greater than that of the poorest 10% of society.

The disparities in income distribution at a national level are reproduced in the various socio-economic regions of the country. The most extreme case of inequality is found in the peninsular region, where the wealthiest 10% of the local population claims more than half of the household income generated in the area, while the poorest 40% receives less than 8%. The other extreme can be found in places like the northern region, in the states that border the United States. There, the pattern of income distribution is significantly less concentrated. Mexico City falls somewhere in the middle, due to the coexistence of industrial activity and high productivity service activities and a significant presence of groups of people who are in extremely precarious employment conditions.

Mexico is not only a polarized and unequal society, but also one that has been impoverished by recurrent crises and economic stagnation in recent years. The increase in precarious employment and the deterioration of real income have only worsened Mexico’s problems with poverty.

Unlike the United States, Mexico has no official poverty line. Nevertheless, in the early 1980s a governmental organization – the General Coordination of the National Program on Depressed Areas and Marginal Groups (COPLAMAR), which is part of the executive branch – put together a Normative Basket of Basic Needs (CNSE) to calculate the average annual cost for a typical household of 4.9 members to meet these needs (in 1981 dollars). The CNSE includes – among other things – food, housing, basic health care and hygiene products, basic recreational and cultural activities, transportation and communication, clothing and shoes, and small personal accessories.

By using consumer price indexes for each of the CNSE subcategories, we updated the cost of the basket according to prices in different years in order to quantify the incidence of poverty in Mexico between 1963 and 1996.

Within the basic needs considered by the CNSE, the categories of food, housing, and some minor costs associated with health, hygiene, and basic educational materials make up what COPLAMAR called the Sub-basic-needs Basket (CSM), the cost of which determines the extreme poverty line in our calculations.

According to these measurements, a person lives below the poverty line when his or her family income per capita is less than the cost of the CNSE. The person will be considered to be living in extreme poverty if his or her family income per capita is not enough to cover the costs of the CSM (i.e., the most urgent needs of food, housing, and other small items that people normally do not receive through government transfers).

Starting with the trends in extreme poverty, we find that, in 1963, 70 of every 100 Mexicans had insufficient income to acquire the Sub-basic-needs Basket (CSM). That percentage decreased over the next 21 years to 56.7% in 1968, 34% in 1977, and 29.9% in 1984. Thus, the incidence of extreme poverty was systematically reduced during the decades in which both income growth and redistribution occurred. Between 1984 and 1988 the level of extreme poverty was also marginally reduced. In the 1990s, however, the tendency was reversed, and the incidence of extreme poverty grew to 32.9% in 1992; 34.0% in 1994, and 37.9% in 1996. Currently, according to our calculations, more than 35 million Mexicans do not have sufficient income to acquire the goods contained in the Sub-basic-needs Basket (CSM).

The decrease in extreme poverty that took place between 1963 and 1996 was accompanied by systematic and consistent increases in the broader measure of poverty, which went from 8.1% in 1963 to 41.7% in 1992, and remained at similar levels for the next four years.

The sum of those who live in extreme poverty and those who live in non-extreme poverty is the total number people who live in poverty – in other words, those whose income is not enough to acquire the Normative Basket of Basic Needs (CNSE). The incidence of total poverty was reduced from around 78% in 1963 to 58% in 1984. It remained almost unchanged during the rest of the 1980s and then reversed direction significantly in the following decade until it reached nearly 80% in 1996, a level slightly higher than 33 years earlier. The behavior of this variable clearly reflects the interruption in the economic growth and the income redistribution process that occurred in the 1980s.

While the incidence of poverty in relative terms now may be similar to that of three decades ago, the absolute incidence is currently much greater. In 1963, there were 30 million people living in poverty; in 1996, there were 74 million. Given these trends, it becomes clear that an economic crisis like that of 1995 – which resulted in a recession, higher unemployment, the increased precariousness of jobs, and a reduction in real income for the majority of the population – translates into significant increases in the levels of poverty and extreme poverty.

The highest rates of extreme poverty are found in the southern and central regions, especially the Pacific South, where the rate is 67.9%. The capital area and the northern regions (the Gulf North, North, and Pacific North), on the other hand, show an occurrence of extreme poverty on the order of 24% to 28%. In fact, a clear inverse association was found between the level of poverty and the per-capita-product levels of the regions.

We also consider three alternative scenarios in an attempt to forecast the course Mexico’s economy will take from 1996 to 2015. These projections are based on an economic model led by final demand, both internal and external. The first scenario supposes an average annual growth of 3.1% in the national economy. The second scenario is one of greater dynamism (4.7% annual growth), and the third scenario assumes the continuation of recessive trends, with an average annual growth rate of only 1.9%. The results of the projection indicate that not even the most optimistic scenario would permit the generation of enough remunerated jobs for all of the new workers that will enter the workforce, much less reduce the current trend towards more precarious jobs.

Assuming income distribution remains consistent, among other things, we projected the number of people who would be living in poverty and extreme poverty. The results were that poverty would decrease in relative terms in all three scenarios. In absolute terms, however, poverty would increase, except in
the most optimistic scenario.

The Mexican rural population is centuries behind in its development. Combine that fact with the early 1980s interruption in economic growth (and the adverse effects that had on remunerated jobs, real income, and its distribution structure), and the result is notable material setbacks and elevated levels of poverty and extreme poverty. By extrapolating from current circumstances, we can see that the magnitude of these problems is such that they will require several decades of sustained economic growth to reverse these trends, and several more decades to eliminate them.

Mexican labor laws

An analysis of the Mexican labor laws regulating salaried work is helpful in explaining the trends of deteriorating wages and increasingly precarious employment conditions. We closely examine the specifics of Mexican labor legislation, with special attention given to its origin and operation within the framework of an authoritarian and corporative political system in which important powers are concentrated in the government’s executive branch, allowing it to control collective bargaining processes and other labor policies. We assert that the direct or indirect intervention of Mexico’s executive branch has permitted, in practice, a great flexibility in the management of labor relations, leaving the interests of salaried workers completely without defense in order to allow for a restructuring of the economy and to keep low wages as the principal comparative advantage in relation to other countries.

Other issues we examine include individual rights, collective rights, demands around issues of labor reform, and changes in the area of social security. In terms of individual rights, we describe the principal rules relative to labor stability that are part of a complex set of restrictions designed to guarantee the worker job security as long as there is work to be done. The exceptions to this general principle are shown, and the system of compensation and reinstatement to the job are described. Even though these rules create the impression that Mexico has one of the most rigid labor law systems in Latin America, in practice, the high level of labor market flexibility undermines their effectiveness. This situation can be explained by various factors, such as the lack of legal precision in regulating criteria and definitions, the general lack of knowledge about these rules, the absence of truly representative labor unions, and the fall in salaries that reduced the cost of compensation, among other things.

In terms of working conditions, we analyze the rules that determine salary and non-salary costs as well as those relating to work times, the providing of services, and internal mobility. In this area, we show the existence of a significant legal flexibility for determining working conditions, a flexibility that can be restricted through collective bargaining.

The analysis of collective rights outlines the peculiarities of the Mexican system in conceding important coercive powers to unions (the rights to organize by trade, to bargain collectively, and to strike) and in authorizing broad state intervention in the organizing and bargaining process through powers related to union registration, the storage of collective contracts, and the sanctioning of the right to strike. As a result of this kind of intervention, false unions are created and legitimate unions are subordinated to employers and to the Mexican government. The tripartite character of the Mexican labor justice system is revealed as one of the factors that works in favor of the intervention of the executive branch in the world of work, something which has led to “corporative flexibility” as a form of adapting high levels of legal protection to the requirements of the political and economic process. This explains why Mexico has not yet required labor law reform in order to make economic adjustment possible. Businessmen have been calling for new legislation since the end of the 1980s, but official labor confederations – headed by the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) – have resisted out of fear of losing their corporative privileges. The government has been willing to accept their resistance and leave labor law as it is, since worker’s rights are sufficiently unprotected under the current system. It is, rather, the independent union movement brought together by the National Union of Workers (UNT) that is calling for a real reform of current labor law. The changes they call for would lead to the strengthening of the rule of law in the world of work, the broadening of organizing possibilities in conditions of true transparency and autonomy, and the establishment of an authentic bilaterality for unions in the area of changes meant to increase productivity of businesses and distribute the rewards of that increase.

We also describe the most notable characteristics of the 1995 reforms in social security and how they coincide with the privatization efforts of the last two decades. The most important modifications of the pension system are those designed to gradually phase out the previous system, which was administered by the Mexican Institute for Social Security (IMSS) and financed by a pay-as-you-go system, and replace it with a private system based on individual savings. These changes influence the type of beneficiaries, the time periods, and forms and yields of savings, and they have been questioned because of their inadequacy for achieving some of the principal purposes of the reform, such as the widening of the coverage of the various insurance plans.

Mexican labor unions

In the first part of this chapter, we analyze some of the principle characteristics of the Mexican labor union structure, which is shaped by considerable government intervention and is the result of a consolidated corporative arrangement that has existed since the 1940s. The Mexican labor union structure is characterized by a centralization of power in a small group; the lack of intermediary coordinating groups; the weakness and isolation of unions; organizing based on artificial units and divisions; and the expansion of unionization through coercive mechanisms (e.g., exclusion clauses).

We maintain that this hierarchical and decentralized labor union structure may have been efficient in the context of a development model centered on the growth of the internal market – it allowed political negotiation of wage increases and working conditions for important segments of the labor market while at the same time impeding the concentration of union power in a single organization. Today, however, this structure has become a straight jacket that facilitates the implementation of government and business policies that are contrary to the interests of the workers.

Within the analysis of the union structure, we look at the principal characteristics of the Labor Congress (CT), an elite organization charged with determining union policies. The CT brings together the most important confederations, federations, and national unions. We also examine the contrasting histories of some of the CT’s members during the last two decades, such as the case of the Mexican Teachers Union (SNTE) and the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME). Outside of the CT, there is also the “independent union movement,” which itself is a heterogeneous group of organizations with different profiles and histories. Within its ranks are organizations that have never belonged to the CT and have always worked in opposition to it, as well as organizations that have recently left the ranks of the CT to assume a critical position in the face of governmental and business policies. Other groups that do not belong to the CT and do not represent workers include the “white union
s” or “company unions,” which are tied closely to management, and other groups that are unions in name only, as the workers themselves are not even aware of their existence.

The emergence of the UNT in 1997 as the representative of a “new union movement” constitutes one of the most important changes in union structure in the last two decades. The organizational structure of the UNT and the characteristics of the unions that comprise it are very different from the CT in terms of coordinating capacity, level of democracy, and internal political plurality and management style.

Although the UNT has fewer members than the CT, the UNT’s structure and internal policies allow for better worker representation.

While looking at the role of labor unions in the state of working Mexico, we also consider the evolution of union organizing and the primary characteristics of unionized workers. The available data, while limited, show a decrease in unionization rates beginning in the 1980s and persisting through today. This trend is even more pronounced for large industrial unions that are in industries undergoing restructuring. It should be emphasized that the sources analyzed (National Survey of Household Income and Expenses, National Survey on Employment, Salaries, Technology and Training in the Manufacturing Sector, and the National Survey of Workers in Manufacturing) have rarely been used up until now to determine levels of unionization. The independent data from these various sources serve to reinforce the conclusion reached earlier that unionization rates have been falling in Mexico.

With respect to the distribution of membership across the main trade union confederations, the data reveal no significant changes over the time period we examine. The CTM remains the largest confederation within the CT.

Collective bargaining in Mexico

In this section we review the extent of collective bargaining at both the federal and local level, exploring available statistics in order to establish the authenticity of collective contracts as well as the extent to which the signing of “sweetheart contracts” are a way of undermining labor’s influence over work conditions. To this end, we show the importance of the federal jurisdiction in terms of the number of workers involved in contract reviews as well as the low percentage of salaried workers involved in these reviews (19.6% of the workers potentially covered by collective agreements in 1998). We also estimate that approximately 60% of the contracts under federal jurisdiction were active between 1998 and 1999 (they are reviewed periodically). But information available for collective contracts at the local jurisdiction corresponding to Mexico City show that, in 1999 only a little over 8% of these contracts were reviewed. This suggests that there are more opportunities for fraud at the local level than at the federal level. The CTM continues to hold most collective contracts.

We also examine the impact of minimum wage increases as a parameter of the contract reviews, something that could be seen as an indicator of the ineffectiveness of unions in protecting members salaries. Likewise, we show the importance of productivity bonuses in contract reviews, which went from benefiting 56.5% of the workers in 1994 to benefiting only 12.1% between 1996 and today. The decrease in the importance of bonuses is corroborated by looking at the percent of reviews that included them.

Finally, we look at the transformation of collective work contracts. Here we conclude that functional flexibility is high in the federal jurisdiction. This confirms one characteristic of the contractual model of the Mexican Revolution with respect to the low participation of unions in the work process. On the other hand, numeric flexibility decreases when there are restrictions on the use of temporary workers and, to a lesser degree, by the use of subcontracting, confidential workers, and layoffs. A pronounced rigidity in how wages are determined and a weak link between this and productivity through bonuses are also found. Between 1990 and 1994, a tendency to increase labor flexibility was shown when modifications were made to collective contracts. This translated primarily to three changes: (1) a greater exclusion of unions in decision making on technological change and work methods; (2) an increased likelihood that temporary workers and confidential workers would be employed; and (3) an increase in job mobility, classifications, shifts, promotions, demotions, etc. Our research also documents that these same trends observed in contracts regulated by the federal jurisdiction are also seen in contracts under local jurisdiction or negotiated at the national industry level.

Arturo Alcalde, Graciela Bensusan, Enrique de la Garza, Enrique Hernandez Laos, Teresa Rendon, and Carlos Salas. 2000. Trabajo y Trabajadores en el Mexico Contemporaneo. Mexico City: Miguel Angel Porrua.


1 . The various statistical information sources on the topic (population census data, economic census data, household surveys and workplace surveys) capture different elements of the country’s complex labor market, and they are used in complementary fashion in order to offer a more complete panorama pf working conditions in Mexico.

2. The overall economic activity rate is the product of the employment-to-population rate and the working age population.

3. “Urbanized areas” are defined as either state capitals or areas with a population of 100,000 or more inhabitants.

4. According to the National Survey on Urban Employment, current unemployment rates are 2-3% of the economically active population.

5. People over 60 years of age who are classified as “other inactives” are in a situation that could be considered family-supported retirement.

6. The National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information (INEGI) has not yet made public the results of the 1998 ENEGH survey.