What is a maquiladora?

"Maquiladoras are factories located in the border zone of Northern Mexico that manufacture finished goods such as home appliances and automobiles for export to the United States. They are generally owned by non-Mexican companies seeking to avoid stringent environmental laws and to exploit low-wage labor and favorable tariff regulations. Conditions in Maquiladoras often reflect the worst of Mexican labor standards, including excessive hours, forced pregnancy tests,and very low wages. These ratings identify companies that operate Mexican maquiladoras that employ at least 250 workers."


"In North America the maquiladoras (industrial parks) in northern Mexico, just across the border from the United States, are an example of production sharing. Mexico, in 1995, was one of the top three trading partners of the United States. The manufacturing facilities, the maquilas, south of the Rio Grande border provide jobs for thousands of Mexicans, helping thereby to build Mexico's own economy. These factories train workers to make finished products as well as component parts."


"The maquiladora industry involves thousands of assembly plants set up in Mexico, mostly just inside the border with the United States. They import foreign raw materials duty-free and assemble them using inexpensive labor into finished products that are exported primarily to the United States. Many of the Mexican workers in such factories have come from impoverished agricultural areas in search of steady jobs, and because of the working conditions in many of these border factories, the word maquiladora has taken on the negative connotation of a sweatshop.
The maquiladoras have been a major contributor to the growth of Mexican exports in recent decades. By 1998 the maquiladora sector provided about 40 percent of Mexico's exports and employed about 1 million Mexican workers. After the North American Free Trade Agreement became effective on Jan. 1, 1994, the government attempted, with limited success, to increase the tiny percentage of parts produced by Mexican firms for the export assembly plants. The maquiladoras have, however, increased foreign investment in Mexico and now generally pay wages that are more than four times the Mexican average (although still well below wages in the United States). Many of the newer maquiladoras are no longer located along the U.S.-Mexican border, which is helping to decrease the gap between the relatively wealthy north and the impoverished south. Nevertheless, critics charge that the maquiladoras have led to the loss of jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector. Environmentalists say that many U.S. companies have used the maquiladoras to avoid stringent U.S. antipollution regulations, causing serious contamination of rivers and aquifers along the U.S.-Mexican border. Because the maquiladoras are so closely linked to the U.S. economy, they were severely affected by the U.S. economic slowdown in 2001. By year's end a number of maquiladoras had closed, and it was estimated that more than 200,000 maquiladora workers had lost their jobs, most of them in plants along the border with the United States."



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