Mexico – Does More Trade Make It A Better Place To Work?
The second United States-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) started on 6 January 2015. President Barack Obama and President Enrique Pena Nieto are meeting to discuss, among other things, how to make it easier for the two countries to increase trade and reduce bottlenecks at the borders, both land and sea. This is to facilitate business which is worth over $500 billion in bilateral trade per year and over $100 billion in cross-border investment.
This is against a background where, as we recently reported, Mexico is making major changes to its infrastructure, everything from energy to telecoms. While this is all encouraging, does it make Mexico a better place to work?
Clearly there is always the shadow of the terrifying violence of the drug cartels and the ongoing serious problems of dealing with both the cause and the effect of that. But, aside from that, does this increase in trade and modernisation translate into an improved environment for most citizens?
Time And Money
A recent OECD report, The Better Life Index rates Mexico poorly on many factors including most employment aspects. If you do get a job you are in last but one place in terms of getting guaranteed holiday, one place ahead of the United States. The story is equally bleak if you’re on minimum wage in Mexico. In terms of the gap between average salaries and the minimum wage, Mexico scores dead last.
Mexico came last as well in a slightly random measure – the report worked out how long it would take someone on average salary to earn enough to buy a Big Mac hamburger. In Australia it took just 8.23 minutes, but in Mexico it took just under 45 minutes.
Yet Dunkin’ Donuts has just announced plans to open more than 100 restaurants in Mexico, after a five-year absence, to take its place alongside other major US chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s. Euromonitor says that the consumption of gourmet coffees in Mexico has grown ‘significantly’, with stable growth to follow.
Data And Emotions
Despite encouraging signs, Mexico came in 33rd place overall in the OECD survey, ahead of Turkey in last place. Mexico was the worst-ranked Latin American country in the survey, with Brazil being the best ranked in 21st position. On the other hand, the United States only came in 29th position, showing that GDP is too crude a marker to determine whether a country is doing well by its citizens or not.
That point is made by a general finding of the report. The OECD average for citizens’ satisfaction with their lives is 76%. This takes into consideration more positive feelings like enjoyment, pride of accomplishment and so on, compared to negative feelings in a day. In Mexico the figure was 82%
With major improvements in the pipeline, some of which we have already reported on, there are grounds for hoping Mexico will move up the table by the time of the next biennial OECD report, to match its citizens general feelings. However it also shows that governments need to examine an increasing range of measurements and data to ascertain whether their citizens are indeed content. In an increasingly turbulent world that seems a sensible course of action.