Women and the Maquiladoras of Mexico

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Women and the Maquiladoras of Mexico


After the US government put a stop to the Bracero program, a plan known as the Border Industrialization Program was introduced in 1965 by the Mexican government aimed at creating job opportunities for the workers previously allowed to work in the US on a seasonal basis. During the same year, the maquiladora industry was born in Mexico.

Women and the Maquiladoras of Mexico

In this paper I will explore the history, background and practices of the Maquiladora industry. I will also discuss the negative aspects of Maquiladoras on its female labor force. I will first discuss the maquiladora history and the changes of government policies on foreign investments in Mexico. Second I will focus on the feminization of the labor force by the maquiladora industry.

The Birth of the Maquiladora

Since 1965, under the Border Industrialization Program, the Mexican government has granted licenses to foreign companies, mostly U.S. owned for the temporary importation of duty-free machinery, raw materials, parts, and components. After being assembled in Mexican plants, they are exported, primarily to the United States. Duties levied for export are based solely on the value added by the actual cost of wages and related costs in Mexico (Takagi, 1998).

Many U.S. companies have not simply opened new facilities in Mexico but have also taken advantage of low costs by relocating. They are attracted by labor costs that in 1990 were one-eighth the U.S. minimum wage, by loose environmental protection laws, by unions that make few demands on companies, and by unenforced safety regulations. The number of these U.S. factories-maquiladoras or maquilas as they are called in Mexico-has now risen to an estimated two thousand.

Maquiladoras at their cores “are US subsidiaries or contract affiliates under foreign ownership; are dedicated to the assembly of components, the processing of primary materials, or both, producing either intermediate or final products; import most or all primary materials and components from the United States, and re-export the end products of the manufacturing process to the United States; are labor-intensive” (Prieto, Introduction xxiii).

The history of the maquiladora can be divided into three stages. The first stage is from 1965 to 1974. It is considered to be a period of Maquiladora installation and consolidation. New jobs were created. However, instead of absorbing those braceros that lost their jobs as hoped by the Mexican government, maquiladora plants preferred and hired mostly young women who have never worked outside of their home. By 1974, less than 10 years after the Border Industrialization Program, there were already 455 maquiladoras employing 75947 people in Mexico (Vila, 2003). During this period, several regulations were relaxed. The second period was marked with crisis in the maquiladora industry due to the 1974 recession in the United States. Foreign investors pulled their capitals out of Mexico and 32000 jobs were lost in the first ten months alone (Vila, 2003). As a result, the growth of the maquiladora industry came to a complete halt. In order to revive the industry, the Mexican government exempted the maquiladoras to abide only few of its labor laws. Thus, the maquiladoras were able to operate outside of labor laws and on their own rules and policies which affected thousands and thousands of maquiladora workers. This period of unrest indicates the “inability of maquiladoras to form a stable economic base [for mexico]” (Kopinak, 1996). The third stage of the maquiladora industrialization is the period between 1983 and 1989. This stage was marked by the governmental emphasize of support for more capital-intensive maquiladoras with fewer workers while maintaining the creations of more jobs as an important purpose (Anyul,2001) This is also the period in which the word...
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