Mexico and the maquiladoras

In Latin America, Mexico is the country with the longest experience with Free Trade Zones codified in NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement. Mexico has become the international example for the transfer of labour-intensive assembly and manufacturing operations by transnational companies to cheap labour countries, an important feature of the neo-liberal economic model. The movement of assembly operations within the North American market has created a huge maquiladora industry in Mexico.

The history of maquiladoras in Mexico is characterised by relentless growth and sudden decrease. Since the first maquiladoras were established in the region along the Mexico-US border in 1965, the number of employees steadily grew to 445.000 in 1980, then during the economic crisis decreased to 398.000 in 1995 before it started growing again. The maquila-industry reached its peak in 2000 with over 1,3 million employees in over 3.000 factories. From there, the numbers then dropped dramatically. Due to the US economic crisis and the emerging competition of Asian countries joining the WTO, specifically China, orders fell and about 350 factories closed or left the country for Asia. Currently, the number of employees is just over 1 million, and about 80 percent of them are women.


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Globalisation: cheap labour, cheap products
...and women workers

Mexico and the maquiladoras

...and unions

Sri Lanka and the Free Trade Zones

...and workers

Bangladesh and the Free Trade Zones
...and unions

Turkey and the garment industry


Workers in Bangladesh

Workers in Bangladesh