Education, Jobs and Emigration for Mexican Youth

From the Washington Post on October 4th, 2003

The three main options for high school graduates -- attending college, getting a job in Mexico or crossing the border illegally to work in the United States -- have become tougher in the past few years, according to dozens of youths and experts interviewed over the past month.

The result is that the generation being counted on to drive Mexico's future finds itself stuck. A historically high number of Mexicans -- more than 20 million people, a fifth of the population -- are 15 to 24 years old.

These young people have been promised much: They are reaching working age a decade after implementation of a free trade agreement with the United States that was supposed to bring new jobs, higher wages and a better life than their parents had. They are also coming of age as Mexico moves beyond its authoritarian past.

But millions are finding more obstacles than opportunities in the new democratic era. The lack of options, according to officials, health experts and educators, has contributed to widespread underemployment, crime, drug abuse and rising suicide rates among young people.

Of the three main options characterized in the article, the illegal immigration is an anomaly that was necessitated by structural disequilibrium in the transnational economy.  Under normal circumstances, there is no reason for people to have to undertake a dangerous border crossing to work under tough conditions for uncertain pay and prospects.  Education is not universally available to all who desire it, as there are only a limited number of openings for an expanding pool of applicants.  Realistically, only the Mexican job market can hope to offer realistic economic opportunities. 

The following chart contains data obtained from the 2002 TGI Mexico study.  From this survey, we show the employment status for all individual ages from 15 to 24 years old.  We note that the percent of students decreases with age, with the effect of eventually funnelling the ex-students into various states of employment and unemployment.  If the status during the early 20's are supposed to be the best predictor of future earnings, then it is very distressing to see that there are so many people who cannot find a job.

(source: 2002 TGI Mexico)

(posted by Roland Soong, 10/05/2003)

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