New Law Versus Age Discrimination in Mexico
BY FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ
Recently, an initiative to make hiring older people mandatory was approved by Mexico’s senate and sent to the lower chamber of congress for confirmation where it is expected to become law. And while age discrimination in Mexico is already illegal, the labor laws in this country are rarely, if ever, enforced.
People reading this might think this is about people in their 50s and 60s, when it applies to men and women as young as 37. An ABC News report in 2018 exposed the rampant age discrimination in Mexico and its effect on its citizenry. One case that was highlighted was the plight of Javier Vazquez, a flight attendant whose employer went bankrupt. His résumé featured eight years of experience, fluency in three languages and a hard-to-get U.S. traveler’s visa with air travel booming in Mexico, the demand for flight attendants practically guaranteed Javier easily getting a new job.
There was only one problem: Vazquez was 37. And in Mexico, where blatant age discrimination is not only tolerated but expected, he was given notice that people over 35 need not apply. At 37 years of age, Vasquez was considered over the hill.
The ABC News investigation discovered the age discrimination practice robs Mexico’s economy of experienced workers, and discourages people from investing time in post-graduate degrees that could help the country advance and drive professionals into the vast, untaxed sector of odd jobs and street vending. “Not denouncing these kinds of practices is a failure on our part,” said Jean Philbert Mobwa-Mobwa, director of complaints at the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination.
The country’s median age is 24 compared with 35 in the USA, and 58.8 million of Mexico’s 103 million people are under 30. That leaves nearly 60 million young people looking for work, which squeezes out the old men and women over 37.
The first article of Mexico’s 1917 constitution prohibits “all discrimination motivated by ethnic or national origin, gender, age, disabilities, social condition, health conditions, religion, opinions, preferences, marital status or anything else that threatens human dignity or degrades the rights and liberties of people.” Yet, ageism occurs daily and certainly does violate human dignity. In 2018,
only three people submitted complaints about age discrimination to the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination according to the annual report of the government-run agency. That’s right. Just three.
The age discrimination offenders aren’t just Mexican companies. In one recent newspaper ad, Office Depot, of Delray Beach, Florida, sought a checkout supervisor aged 22 to 35 for a store in a Mexico City suburb. Job websites are full of similar offers from Mars, 7-Eleven, Marriott Hotels and other non-Mexican companies.
Blockbuster, based in Dallas, Texas advertised for assistant store managers ages 18 to 27. A sign outside a Holiday Inn in central Mexico City sought a housekeeper between the ages of 20 and 34. In most U.S. hotels, many housekeeper employees are older women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.
In Cabo San Lucas, like nearly every other city in Mexico, the only job offers for older employees are security guards, waiters, and shopping store baggers. Most timeshare sales jobs are filled by older ex-pat American and Canadian gentlemen and women and not youngsters. A 2005 poll by Mexico’s Social Development Secretariat said 72.8 percent of Mexicans believe that age limits in want ads are wrong.
”It has been nearly impossible to get a job,” said Andres Flores, who arrived in Cabo from Michoacan and is 62 years of age. “I couldn’t understand why this one produces delivery company didn’t hire me, even though I have my driver’s license and years of experience, and when I got home and looked in the mirror, I knew it was the gray hairs and old age that kept them from hiring me. Giving the job to someone much younger, I’m sure.”
According to the Association against Employment and Workplace Discrimination by Age or Gender in Mexico, “55% of jobs have a listed maximum age of applicants at 35 years old” whereas “only 10% consider applicants with a maximum age between 48 and 50.”
To combat ageism in Mexico, the Mexican Justice Commission of the Chamber of Deputies has mandated that companies must hire at least 1 “elder” for every 20 employees and is considering an amendment to the Federal Criminal Code that would punish companies and individuals for ageism, specifically, not hiring a qualified individual due to his or her age. These penalties could be a “sentence of one to three years in prison, or a compensation from 150 to 300 days in community work, and a fine of up to 200 days of minimum wage.”
Harsh punishments might prevent ageism but one very solid solution is the new amendment that will soon become law.