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September 2004, Vol. 127, No. 9
Declining union density in Mexico, 1984–2000
David Fairris and Edward Levine
Unions have experienced membership setbacks in a number of countries since 1984. In Mexico, union density has declined for the labor force as a whole, and also across a wide spectrum of industries and occupations. Only a small proportion of the decline is accounted for by changes in industry, occupation, and demographic characteristics. Most of the decline is attributable to the changing structural/institutional context within which unions organize new workers and retain existing members, which could include, for example, changing government policies and increasing employer resistance to unions.
This article examines the union density situation in Mexico, using individual workers’ responses to a nationally representative series of household surveys. This approach allows active union representation to be measured. Workers who self-report being union members are less likely to be a party to protection contracts — that is arrangements in which employers pay unions a fee (often unbeknownst to workers) for explicitly failing to represent labor’s interests at the worksite. Labor scholars have argued that protection contracts have been on the rise in recent years in Mexico.
This article derives weighted estimates of the proportion of the labor force affiliated with a union for various years from 1984 to 2000, both in the aggregate and by industry, occupation, and proximity to the border with the United States. Data are from the National Survey of Household Income and Expenditures (Encuesta Nacional de Ingresos y Gastos de los Hogares — or ENIGH) — a national sample of households, stratified by population size of locality, with sampling weights that make estimates drawn from the sample nationally representative.1 The data contain a number of useful worker characteristics, including whether workers are affiliated with a union in their principal job, their monthly pay and average weekly hours worked at this job, their industry and occupation, educational level, and demographic characteristics such as age and gender. To make meaningful inter-temporal comparisons, this article uses detailed industry and occupation categories that are consistent across all years.2
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1 INEGI. Encuesta nacional de ingresos y gastos de los hogares, 1989, 1984. (Aguascalientes, Mexico, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, Geografía e Informática, 1992). ——. Encuesta nacional de ingresos y gastos de los hogares, 1992, 1994, 1996. (Aguascalientes, Mexico, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, Geografía e Informática, 1998). ——. Encuesta nacional de ingresos y gastos de los hogares, 1998, 2000. (Aguascalientes, Mexico, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, Geografía e Informática, 2000).
2 Because of the change between 1998 and 2000 in the industrial classification system in Mexico (from the Clasificación Mexicana de Actividades y Productos or CMAP to the Sistema de Clasificación Industrial de América del Norte or SCIAN [NAICS in English]), it was not possible to make the detailed industry categories for 2000 consistent with those of previous years. Thus, for comparisons between 2000 and previous years, we rely on more aggregate industry categories.
Related BLS programs
Foreign Labor Statistics
and unemployment in Mexico's labor force.—Nov.
Area wage surveys shed light on declines in unionization.—Sept. 1985.
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