Volume 44, Number 175,
October-December 2013
The Emerging Phenomenon
of Unemployed Agricultural Day Laborers
Antonieta Barrón

What emerges is a scenario in which both men and women worked fewer days. Given that production has not decreased, it may be concluded that there is a greater labor supply, and laborers with work are under-utilized. This is a type of unemployment distribution pattern known as under-employment.

Rural Unemployment

Starting in 2000, the concept of unemployment changed. When speaking of unemployment in agriculture, it is generally assumed to be seasonal.

One feature of agricultural employment is that it is both temporary and seasonal. A majority of wage laborers work the entire year, whereas the majority of work is by seasons due to the seasonal nature of agriculture. After planting, time must pass before harvesting. The geographic mobility of day laborers allows them to minimize idle time. When harvesting ends in one region, they can go to another or return home.

According to definitions from the International Labor Organization (ilo) and the inegi, day laborers are not unemployed as they are not seeking work. "To be considered unemployed a person must be in this state in the reference period," as well as meet two other conditions: not have performed any activity to receive income and be available to work.21

Rather than looking for work, day laborers know where and when there will be work based on their social networks and own experience. The definition of unemployment used by inegi refers to temporary situations or to applications in urban labor markets in developed nations where there is unemployment insurance. Moreover, these surveys are generally conducted by household and as migrant workers, these day laborers are not in their households.

But even taking into account the limitations of this definition of unemployment, the general consensus has been that agricultural unemployment was seasonal (Domínguez and Brown, 2013), which may have been true in the past, but is no longer the reality.

In response to a question asking day laborers why they had not worked the week prior in 1994, males said that they were either sick or did not want to, whereas women said they had to clean or go to the doctor or a child was ill. Neither group responded that they were not hired.22

21 This definition of unemployment refers to temporary situations or to applications in urban labor markets in developed nations where there is unemployment insurance. Moreover, these surveys are generally conducted by household and day laborers are not considered regular residents. In rural areas, measures of unemployment have largely been absent, which has made it difficult for researchers to grasp the realities of their economic activities.

22 Case study by Antonieta Barrón.

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 192, January-March is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Feb 23th, 2018.
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