Sep 042010
 

The accuracy of Mexico’s unemployment statistics is frequently questioned in the media but INEGI, Mexico’s National Geography, Statistics and Information Institute, uses internationally accepted methods to compute various different unemployment indices. As in most countries, INEGI surveys are based on samples in urban areas, involving 80,000 interviews in more than 30 towns and cities.

The International Labour Organization defines “unemployed workers” as those members of the workforce currently not working but willing and able to work, who have actively sought work in the past four weeks. Note that the mere act of looking at newspaper or online ads is not considered sufficient evidence of “actively seeking work”.

Mexico’s economically active population in the second quarter of 2010 was 47.1 million people, 1.4 million more than for the same period in 2009. This figure represents 59.2% of the total population aged 14 and over. The increase over the past year is due partly to population increase and partly to personal decisions to participate (or not) in the workforce. INEGI statistics show that the under-employed population was 8.9% of all those with jobs. The unemployed population was 2.5 million, 5.3% of the workforce.

Mexico’s workforce is not gender-independent. 78 out of every 100 men are economically active, compared to only 43 of every 100 women. The workforce can be subdivided between primary occupations (5.9 million, 13.2% of the total workforce); secondary occupations (10.6 million, 23.7%) and the tertiary or services sector (27.9 million, 62.4% of  workforce), with the remaining 0.7% undeclared.

Unemployment in Mexico, second quarter of 2010.

Unemployment in Mexico, second quarter of 2010. Cartography: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

The map shows the spatial pattern of unemployment in the second quarter of 2010. Out-migration from several southern and western states has significantly reduced unemployment. Several southern states are among those with the lowest unemployment rates in the entire country.

The highest rates of unemployment are mainly in the states along Mexico’s northern border. Workers flocked to these areas during the boom times of Mexico’s maquiladora program when firms were encouraged to set up “in-bond” factories in these states, enjoying the freedom to import components and export finished products. However, the on-going economic hard times in the USA have reduced demand for such items. In response, many maquiladora factories have laid off some of their workforce, leading to intense competition for available jobs and a higher rate of unemployment.

Unemployment is also high is Tabasco, a center for Mexico’s oil industry. Here, many people have lost their jobs as Mexico’s oil production has been declining in the past few years. Needless to say, it is not only Pemex workers who have been laid off, it is also workers for the hundreds of firms supplying goods and services to Mexico’s oil giant.

What other factors influence unemployment and help explain the patterns shown by the map?

Mexico’s economy and workforce are analyzed in chapters 14 to 20 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

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