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Young and desperate for a job in Mexico

Competition for low-wage work reflects one of Mexico's biggest problems since the 2008-09 downturn: the inability to generate real jobs. The shortage hits the young especially hard.

August 21, 2011|By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times
  • Brokers monitor stock prices at Multiva Bank in Mexico City. Many Mexicans with university degrees say competition for available slots forces them into jobs below their education level.
Brokers monitor stock prices at Multiva Bank in Mexico City. Many Mexicans… (Carlos Jasso / Reuters )

Reporting from Mexico City — Cristina De Anda clutches a fistful of fliers for low-paying jobs: telephone operator, sales clerk, security guard. She's not choosy.

"Anything they give me, whatever," says De Anda, 19, who has found herself in a rough Mexican job market since graduating from high school last month.

She's been turned down at several retailers, such as Liverpool and Sears, and now she's trolling a crowded job fair in a working-class section of Mexico City.

Many of the jobs advertised are entry-level, for low pay: often 800 to 900 pesos a week, less than $80. Worse, De Anda lacks experience.

Competition for low-wage work reflects one of Mexico's biggest problems since the 2008-09 downturn: the inability to generate real jobs. The shortage hits young people hard, with 4 in 10 of Mexico's unemployed in their 20s. Throw in teenagers and the share rises to more than half.

Many find work in a growing informal economy as street vendors, waiters or day laborers. The 13.4 million Mexicans working in that sector don't show up in the official 5.2% jobless rate, masking the country's unemployment problem.

Many Mexicans with university degrees say competition for available slots forces them into jobs below their education level, increasing pressure at the low end.

Oscar Hernandez, 26, who has a business degree, goes from booth to booth at the job fair, handing out resumes and picking up fliers for uninspiring sales jobs.

"It's very hard for those of us who have studied," he says, "because we don't want to end up with something that pays 800 or 900 pesos a week."

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

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