November 2, 2007

Mexico Taps New Labor Export Markets

Confronted with diminishing prospects in the United States, Mexican workers could soon find additional employment opportunities in other places abroad. At a Madrid summit this week, the Spanish and Mexican governments signed a 12-month pilot program that will ease job placements for temporary Mexican workers in Spain. Scheduled to begin on January 1, 2008, the program will be open to workers in a variety of fields. In a veiled poke at US immigration policies, Mexican Labor Minister Javier Lozano Alarcon praised the new bilateral agreement between Mexico and Spain.

“Instead of walls, agreements are constructed when there is will, sensibility, intelligence and understanding,” Lozano said.

Free of charge to potential workers, the labor agreement will also permit some Spanish citizens to legally work in Mexico. Currently, an estimated 10,000 Mexicans reside in Spain, half of whom are students. Mexican tourists visiting Spain number approximately 300,000 each year. Previous to the deal with Mexico, Spain signed guest worker accords with Colombia and Ecuador. No specific figure of how many Mexican guest workers will be contracted in Spain was immediately announced.

Meanwhile, more Mexican workers could be heading north to Canada. Despite reported abuses and other problems in an existing Canada-Mexico guest worker program, some Canadian political and business leaders are appealing for a dramatic increase in the number of Mexican guest workers allowed to work in their country.

After a recent meeting with Mexican Interior Ministry official Florencio Salazar, a Toronto city councilman told the press that he wanted much greater numbers of Mexican workers employed in Canada.

“Hundreds of thousands of workers are needed,” said Toronto Councilman Giorgio Mammoliti. “The (Canadian) business community has a big interest in counting on (Mexican) workers, and we have expressed this at the highest levels of both governments.” According to Mammoliti, skilled Mexican labor is needed in the construction, tourist and service sectors.

Under an existing agreement, temporary Mexican workers are allowed to labor in Canadian fields. Launched in 1980, the program’s enrollment grew from 678 workers during its first year to 9,913 in 2006. At its 2005 peak, the program employed 11,720 Mexican workers. In recent months, however, the Mexican press has carried stories about allegedly poor working conditions faced by Mexican agricultural guest workers in Canada.

Reprinted from Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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