NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 7, 2006

The disparity between job growth in America and in other countries has contributed to the recent influx of migrants into the United States; between 10 and 12 million illegal aliens now reside in the United States, the majority from Mexico, says Stephen Johnson, of the Heritage Foundation.

Until recently, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had kept lots of workers at home, but with Mexico growing stronger and poverty levels decreasing, job growth has not been fast enough, says Johnson:

  • Nearly a million youths enter the Mexican labor force each year and a half million new jobs per year are simply not enough.
  • Mexico's minimum wage is US$4.50 per day, far below the minimum US$5.15 per hour stateside.
  • More Mexican children are now attending school, but the system is still heavily centralized under an inefficient national ministry and subject to nationwide strikes; rural facilities and attendance are poor.

Yet, other net labor exporters in Central and Latin America are worse off, says Johnson:

  • Guatemala and Honduras report poverty rates close to 75 percent.
  • In South America's Andean ridge -- from Venezuela to Bolivia -- the poor constitute more than half of the population.
  • However, in Colombia, a developing trend is to consolidate power within the presidency, ignore the rule of law, over-regulate small business and let the state set prices and salaries.

If U.S. foreign policy balances the equation by providing better border security, workplace enforcement, a practical guest-worker process to match prospective workers with legitimate employment and encourage labor-exporting nations to reform their laws and economies to provide avenues of social mobility, there is no reason why resource-rich countries like Mexico and others in Latin America cannot approach prosperity, says Johnson.

Source: Stephen Johnson, "Mexico's Economic Progress Can Ease Migration Woes," WebMemo (Heritage Foundation), no. 1022, March 31, 2006.


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