GUANAJUATO, Mexico — Over the last few decades, stories of emigration, drug cartels and low-skill factory jobs have unfortunately become commonplace among Mexico’s working youth. In fact, the state of Guanajuato is one of the country’s top sources of illegal immigrants to the United States. The tides are changing, however, as more of the younger generation are choosing to stay in Mexico and pursue education and careers. Mexico’s middle class is beginning to rise out of the woodwork.
Education is a major factor, as more and more choose to enroll in Mexico’s many universities and polytechnics. However, education is nothing without a secure job, and higher-paying jobs are opening up around the country. “Mexico is finally attracting the higher-end industries that experts say could lead to lasting prosperity,” reports the New York Times. And the major industry at play? The auto industry.
Detroit is typically thought of as the car-manufacturing hub of North America, but there are currently more automobile jobs in Mexico than in the entire American Midwest. In fact, a new Brookings Institute report shows that more than 100,000 jobs have been added in Mexico since 2010 thanks to the auto industry. Not only is the industry on a general upswing, but inflation in countries such as China and the U.S. makes Mexico a more attractive prospect to foreign investors.
Mexico is about to see a $10 billion expansion in factories and manufacturing sites, as all of the major auto brands invest, says Reuters. Nissan is planning a $2 billion expansion, while Honda is investing more than $1.3 billion. According to the Washington Post, Nissan now produces more cars in Mexico than in the U.S., at a rate of one vehicle every 55 seconds. Mexico was the location of Nissan’s first plant outside of Japan, established in 1961. Now more than 50 years later, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Audi and Volkswagen join in the latest expansions.
The auto industry is bringing more jobs and higher wages, but disparity and corruption still plagues Mexico’s economic prosperity. Accounting for the crime and weak justice system costs nearly 1.34 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, states the New York Times. “Mexico’s elite upper class includes 1,340,000 people, or 1.7%, of all the country’s inhabitants,” Forbes reports. “By contrast, the country’s lower class includes 66.4 million residents, who collectively represent 59.1% of the country’s total population.”
However, the middle class has grown 11.4% over 10 years and now represents a majority of the population. While the impact is not yet felt on the larger scheme, “individual success is creating a sense of possibility,” says the New York Times. For example, Volkswagen employee, Ivan Zamora, is working on his German, hoping to build a career with the company.
“There’s just a lot more opportunity to study and to succeed,” Zamora says. Another auto-industry worker, Luis Moreno, claims that Nissan has “given [him]everything.” It is these hard-working individuals and the booming emergent industries that can rewrite Mexico’s tragedy to one of success, middle-class growth and happily-ever-afters.
– Mallory Thayer