The number of Mexicans earning the minimum wage has increased 39% in the space of a single month to 19 million, official data shows.
Data from the national statistics agency INEGI shows that 5.3 million additional people were earning the minimum wage in January compared to December 2021.
The minimum wage increased 22% in January to 173 pesos (US $8.40) per day, or 5,186 pesos (just over US $250) per month, in most of the country. The minimum in the northern border region is 50% higher at 260 pesos per day.
Since records began, there has never been such a high number of minimum wage earners, and for the first time ever they are the largest cohort of workers.
INEGI data also shows that the number of people earning more than the minimum wage but no more than double that amount decreased by 11%, or 2.3 million workers, to just under 18 million between December and January.
Only 2.3 million people earn between three and five minimum wages, down from 3.5 million in December, while just 800,000 earn more than five times the minimum, or over 865 pesos per day or 25,950 (US $1,260) per month. A month earlier in December that figure was 1.3 million.
Héctor Magaña, head of the economy and business research center at the Tec de Monterrey university, told the newspaper El Universal that wages have generally decreased because businesses have not fully recovered from the pandemic-induced economic downturn.
“They tend to offer positions with lower remuneration than … in previous periods,” he said.
Similarly, Raymundo Tenorio, an economist, said that small businesses rehired workers on lower salaries when they reopened after the pandemic shutdown.
“For example, a waiter’s assistant who earned a little more than the minimum wage was put down to just a minimum wage, or even less,” he said.
Magaña said that a glut of workers is suppressing wages, and people are accepting jobs with low salaries because they can’t find anything that pays better.
“For some time we’ve seen that the number of people earning an amount higher than [two or more] minimum wages is trending down,” he added, explaining that the trend began before the pandemic but was exacerbated by the coronavirus-induced contraction.
Magaña also said that underemployment has increased during the pandemic, while the number of people employed in the informal sector remains very high.
There were some 30.5 million informal sector workers in January compared to 25.1 million people in the formal sector. The former cohort, which includes street vendors and most domestic workers among many others, generally don’t pay tax and don’t have access to social security benefits.
With reports from El Universal