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Mexico and Brazil Compared: the Entanglement of Industrial, Labor and Political Legacies by Alex Covarrubias, 10/23, LASP Seminar Series

Alex Covarrubias

The Brazilian and Mexican economies have followed parallel yet divergent trajectories in the last decades. Whereas Brazil has expanded its internal market and has focused on improving wages, Mexico is export-oriented and wages have fallen.  This is especially apparent in the automobile industry. Whereas the Brazilian market has become one of the largest in the world, Mexico has become a growing export platform based on cheap labor. More recently, Brazil has plunged into economic and political crisis, yet Mexico’s economy and political system remain afloat, despite the growing wave of violence and the drug war shaking the country. How do we explain such different trajectories? This paper contends that a good part of the answer hinges on the very different industrial and labor relations systems of each country—highly contested (Brazil) vs. highly subordinated (Mexico). It traces the main features of each system and identifies the contemporary challenges each faces.

Alex Covarrubias is a Full Professor at El Colegio de Sonora in Hermosillo, Mexico. He earned his Ph.D. at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University. He is the author of numerous books and articles on labor relations and business strategies in the global auto industry, focusing on Mexico and Latin America. Dr. Covarrubias is President of the Mexican Association of Labor Studies (AMET), Chair of the Mexican Auto Industry Innovation and Labor Network, member of the steering committees of the Latin American Association of Labor Studies (ALAST) and of Le Réseau International De L’Automobile (GERPISA), as well as associate member of the Automotive Policy Research Centre of Canada (APRC).