8.8 million mothers working informally in Mexico

Working mothers lack access to healthcare and other employment benefits, earning less than women without children
8.8 million mothers working informally in Mexico
Saleswoman working at the central supply market in Mexico City - Photo: Ivan Stephens/El UNIVERSAL
10/05/2018
19:18
Rubén Migueles
Mexico City
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Working mothers face more difficulties when looking for employment than other women who don’t have children, given that the majority of them finds itself in need of working informally, with the cost and precariousness it represents to them and their families.

Six out of ten women with children that work for a living do so in the informal market, which means that there are almost 9 million working mothers that don’t have access to health institutions nor receive lawful employment benefits, according to the National Survey of Occupation and Employment in the fourth trimester of 2017.

On a global scale, only 4% of employers acknowledge having a structure for maternity leave periods after the reincorporation of women to working life, for instance, with extended maternity plans, in which the mother has the option to stay for a bit longer at home, which facilitates her permanence in the formal sector, according to data from the American Association of Human Resources.

“In order to support their families, and not just their children, working mothers end up working informally, mainly in the commercial sector, selling products independently or renting small establishments for their business. This type of activity allows them to have an income that is usually low, and it gives them time to tend to their families,” commented Ivonne Vargas, a specialist in human capital.

Wage payments for mothers working informally are lower than those they could receive in the formal sector. Por example, the average income per working hour for women with children in the informal sector rises to MXN$22.50, a figure 10% inferior to the 25 pesos per hour earned by the average Mexican woman, with or without children, and 14% inferior to the 26.1 pesos per hour that Mexican men make, on average.

The problem lies in the fact that, being mothers, these women are driven towards employment in activities with low productivity, such as commerce. In general, almost 80% of all women that are informally employed work in the services sector, a third part of which are occupied in commerce.

The fact that most working mothers earn their living on informal businesses with low productivity ends up being a cause of segregation, and one of the inequalities women face in Mexico.

“When we talk about inequality, we are not just talking about the possibility of reaching executive positions or income disparity. The fact that there is such a high percentage of women engaging in these activities with low productivity is a cause of segregation and inequality,” stressed the specialist.

“The problem with informality is that it not only leaves you without employee benefits; it also leaves you without a training structure and continuous updating, which is extremely important for a woman to grow professionally,” Vargas added.

More than half of the mothers who work informally are self-employed. This represents a total of 4.8 million women, which means that, to a certain extent, the segment has a high capacity to generate employment for female entrepreneurs.

The number of mothers that contribute significantly, if not totally, to household economy in Mexico is constantly growing, which makes it imperative to reduce the gap between formal and informal employment for women through public policies and the initiative of private companies. We must not let the talents of so many women go to waste, concluded Ivonne Vargas.

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