Perspectives on Work in Mexico, Alfonso Bouzas Ortiz (coord.), Mexico, 2010, 347 pp.

Currently, the growth of more developed economies has stagnated and some countries are in recession, particularly in Europe; similarly, growth has diminished in several emerging and developing countries. According to a report developed by the International Labour Organization, 1this economic weakness is expected to have negative effects upon labor markets in approximately six months from now; moreover, employment rates are not expected to return to the levels registered before the 2008 crisis until 2016.

Given this reality, Mexico faces a significant challenge, despite the economic recovery observed in 2010, with a 5.5% GDP (following -6% in 2009) and a 6% unemployment rate; however, the unemployment rate dropped slightly in 2011 to 5.5%,2 showing the need for public policy to cushion the loss of jobs.

Within this context, reading the book Perspectivas del trabajo en México (“Employment perspectives in Mexico”) helps to understand this complex situation through seven essays organized along three main themes: Reflections, Realities and Challenges.

The Reflections were developed by Aleida Hernández, Katerine Bermúdez y José Alfonso Bouzas. Hernández’ essay exposes the foundations of the nation-state and its consolidation under the law, giving way to a new state-legal order that has been washed-out in the context of current economic globalization. In her analysis, Hernández emphasizes the importance of the welfare state in which the State becomes the main regulator of economic activity and conserves the nature of capitalism, establishing social guarantees that constitute a pact between capital and work, and ensuring viability and stability of the capitalist production system. In this phase, labor law was created as an instrument to regulate class conflict, as crystalized in collective bargaining and/or negotiations. Nonetheless, the structure of State power is transformed under the process of economic globalization, undermining social and labor rights.

Bermúdez’ contribution describes the main forms adopted by labor law, derived from the changes in the organization of labor due to the introduction of technological development: mainly, the transition from a rigid structure to a more flexible one. The author underscores the effects of globalization on deepening the dual structure of the labor market, which presents the need for new procedures for union activity. She also reviews international contributions from law to improve workers’ labor conditions.

These Reflections end with the essay by Bouzas, who presents the main issues in the transition from labor relations established under the welfare state and mixed economies, to current day economies. Today, within the parameters of flexibility, workers perform with insecurity on the labor market, on the job, in their posts, in terms of income and in the workplace; this has generated an intense debate about the loss of victories by worker organizations, the degradation of labor conditions that are rigid by existing standards but in practice lie outside of the norm. The author ends with a recommendation to change the current model of labor relations.

The section on Realities includes works by Gerardo González, Luis Oliver Reyes and José Alfonso Bouzas. González analylzes the evolution of the labor market and salaries in Mexico, underscoring the situation caused by globalization. He exposes the differences between the interventionist State and the neoliberal State over a thirty year period, as well as the costs for workers of new agreements between the State and unions, caused by the subjugation of national public policy to guidelines imposed by international financial institutions. In the same way, the author reviews the effects of changes in the economic model upon worker salaries in the country.

The deterioration of labor conditions in Mexico is undeniable, due to the participation of both authorities and union leaders, whose practices harm workers’ Constitutional rights. In this regard, Oliver and Bouza's essay provides substantial elements regarding the difficulties and achievements in transparency and the right to information by labor boards in Mexico in terms of the right to association and collective bargaining. Union transparency is fundamental to erradicate corruption and to win back union democracy. The authors present their main results and their research methodology which represents progress for the evaluation of labor policy.

In the third section of the book, Challenges, we find two essays: one by Sergio Lañas and José Alfonso Bouzas, and the other by Germán Reyes Gaytán in collaboration with Luis Oliver Reyes Ramos and J. A. Bouzas Ortiz. The first of these essays, by Lañas and Bouzas, studies the relevant aspects of the historical evolution of labor from a labor organizing perspective; the authors initiate their review from the classical focus of labor administration in the middle of the 18th century, to Toyotism and the challenges unearthed by the most recent experiences in the division of labor and labor relations expressed in the practices of outsourcing, benchmarking, downsizing, reengineering and outplacement, which are convenient for capital but unfavorable for workers, particularly youth.

In conclusion, Reyes Gaytán, Reyes Ramos and Bouzas Ortiz analyze the challege posed by labor reform. They study existing legislation in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Spain and Venezuela, differentiating labor regulations from their application and developing a comparative analysis of the Mexican experience, leading them to propose important measures for national labor policy.

Undoubtedly, this work will become an obligatory reference for studying labor in Mexico.

Delia Vergara Reyes
Institute of Economic Research, UNAM

1 ILO (2011), World of Work Report 2011: Making Markets Work for Jobs/International Labour Office.

2 OECD (2011), Employment Outlook 2011,

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