In Mexico, a country of 112 million people, 2.5 million are unemployed, according to the latest figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography. The outgoing government of conservative President Felipe Calderón boasts that Mexico has a lower unemployment rate than other countries in Latin America, like Brazil. But it fails to note that working conditions here are often dismal. For example, while 51 million people are counted as “employed”, 12 million of that total are in the categories of “under-employed” (those who work less than 15 hours a week) or “critical conditions” (less than 35 hours a week or earning less than the minimum wage). In 2012, the increase of minimum wage went up to $62.33 pesos ($4.60 US dollars) a day, only increasing by a few cents.
According to the World Bank, the economy grew 3.9 percent in 2011, and the projections for this year and next are 3.5 and 4.0 percent, respectively, despite the global crisis. Only 16 million people have social security and labor benefits – less than one-fourth of the economically active population, according to the most recent data from the Mexican Social Security Institute. And of those, two million are on short-term contracts or are temporary workers. But conditions are set to get even worse. A bill before Congress has to decide on articles aimed at opening up labor unions to greater scrutiny – a demand set forth by business and independent workers. The bill would make it easier to hire and fire workers, and would create trial employments periods, allow companies to hire employees on an hourly basis, and legalize subcontracting and outsourcing. The federal audit office of the tax administration service (SAT) reported that outsourcing is responsible for more than 300 million dollars a year in tax evasion.
A labor lawyer, Manuel Fuentes told IPS, “the Chamber of Deputies could delay passage of the law if it does not consider the union question a priority issue. But the aspects involving civil rights are irreversible.” He believes the next step is to exhaust all of the legal options to fight the bill. For example, different labor groups will ask the National Human Rights Commission to challenge the law as unconstitutional. But Fuentes is not optimistic. The problem is that just nine percent of wage-earning workers are unionized in Mexico, and only those who belong to independent unions are willing to wage a battle against the labor reforms. But in a country where wages have lost 76 percent of their buying power in the last 30 years, and three-quarters of workers have already lost their rights, people are more concerned about holding on to their jobs than fighting for better conditions.
Title: Low Wages, No Labour Rights the Norm in Mexico
Author: Daniela Pastrana
Student Researcher: Doris Flores, Sonoma State University
Evaluator: Patricia Kim-Rajal, Chicano and Latino Studies