Article from Mexican Labor News & Analysis
Published by UE International.

Date published: March 2016

Web version:


March 8, International Women’s Day, an official holiday in Mexico, was celebrated this year, as it always is, with many events, some organized by President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government, some by political parties and academic institutions, and some by women’s organizations large and small. While Mexican women have much to celebrate in terms, there is also much to improve and much to lament. Women do not have equal representation in government, they lag behind in employment and wages, and they suffer in society and work from sexual harassment and widespread violence.

Government Celebrations

President Peña Nieto, speaking on International Women’s Day, promised that his government would be joining with the country’s banks to expanding its Pyme Mujer program offering credit to help finance women’s business ventures. The president also announced an expansion of the Seguro Popular program to provide health coverage for all women suffering from ovarian cancer.

Throughout the country, federal officials, governors and mayors presided over other official International Women’s Day events. While many of these events demonstrated the advance of women and of feminist consciousness in Mexico, one International Women’s Day event showed that some Mexican men still have a long way to go.

Arturo Bermúdez, the Secretary of Public Security of the State of Veracruz, held a party for his department’s female employees where a dozen male police officers performed as strippers for the audience. While some women laughed and took photos with the nearly nude officers others were offended and embarrassed, and some in the feminist community of Mexico were outraged by the event.

Companies and Union Officials Recognize Women

Aeroméxico celebrated the day by dispatching nine women pilots with all female flight crews from Mexico City, on trips to the four corners of the earth: to New York, to Tokyo, to from Lima, and to Madrid among several other destinatons. Aeroméxico first sent a flight with all female flight crews and flight attendants from Mexico City to Shanghai in 2015.

Juan Díaz de la Torre, head of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), whose members have been up in arms over the Education Reform Law, held a ceremony in Durango where he recognized the role that women play in the teaching profession. He recognized five women as outstanding teachers in front of an audience of 250 union officials, politicians, government leaders, and military officers. Meanwhile other women teachers around the country have been leading and joining protests over the Education Reform Law.

Women in the Mexican Economy

About 60 percent of all Mexican workers are employed in the informal economy, a netherworld where firms are not registered with the government, don’t pay taxes, don’t pay into the Social Security health system, and don’t obey labor laws. So we don’t know how many women work in the largest sector of the economy and have to estimate based on statistics form the formal sector.

According to the Mexican Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), Mexico has 29 million workers who are counted in the census of 2014, of whom women make up 43.8 percent. The sectors with the highest female employment are finance at 49.5 percent (bank tellers and clerks largely) and commerce with 47.7 percent (mostly in restaurants, hotels, sales, etc.).

Women make up only 10 percent of agricultural and fishing workers, and only 11 percent of construction. But females represent 34.5 percent of manufacturing workers. In retail sales women make up 51.3 percent.

Women, whether they work out of the home or in the home, do 77.5 percent of all of the domestic chores and care work (caring for children or the elderly). That is, women still do double duty, holding down two jobs, one at work and one at home.

Yet, though they work more, women earn 22.9 percent less than men. This is below the average for Latin America where women earn on the average 16 percent less than women.

Violence Against Women

Some 63 percent of Mexican women over 15 years of age experience gender violence, according to INEGI. Such violence may include physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological violence; it may economic discrimination in the workplace.

Seven women are murdered every day in Mexico, and in the last three decades more than 44,000 have been murdered. In 95 percent of all cases, men who murder women go unpunished.

The drug war initiated by President Felipe in 2006 has to date killed 120,000 people, and though we have no statistics on how many of those were women, many were. The drug cartels have killed women political leaders, women journalists, women teachers, women factory workers, women prostitutes, and others. In the last seven years there have been 356 acts aggression against women reports, 84 of them in 2015.

Yet, as reported in Servicio Especial de la Mujer - SEM Mexico, women are active everywhere in Mexican society—in unions, in politics, in business, in government—working to improve the lot of women. (Those who wish to follow the Mexican women’s movement and can read Spanish should subscribe to SEM Mexico

One particular success of women workers this year was the establishment on February 18 of the National Union of Men and Women Domestic Workers (SNTTH), the first such domestic workers union in the country, the overwhelming majority of whose founders are women.

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