Harley Shaiken

Recent Articles

Going South

NAFTA defenders say Mexico can't lure high-wage jobs away, but they are already heading across the border -- and the treaty will only make matters worse.

P roponents of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) assure nervous lawmakers that free trade with Mexico will not send high-wage American jobs south. They say Mexico is an industrial backwater limited to low-tech, low-productivity operations. Low wages alone, they insist, will not persuade manufacturers to uproot entrenched American operations. Rather, NAFTA will bring Mexican wages up to world-class levels, rendering the argument about wage differentials irrelevant in the long run and opening a lucrative market for goods manufactured in the United States. But these arguments are rooted in the outdated misconceptions about Mexican manufacturing. Mexican export plants in industriesfrom automobiles to consumer electronics already match or exceed American puality and productivity levels-- and at artificially depressed Third World wages. Although average labor productivity in Mexican manufacturing has risen considerably since 1980, the hourly compensation of workers--wages and...