January 30, 2013
Manufacturing in the United States, Mexico, and Central America: Implications for Competitiveness and Migration
The manufacturing sector is a significant source of employment for workers from Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle — with an estimated 17 percent employed in manufacturing in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and immigrants from these countries making up 8 percent of the US manufacturing workforce.
Despite different manufacturing histories and contexts, these countries’ manufacturing sectors are increasingly interdependent, and the prospect of moving up the value chain by building human capital holds great potential for improving both individual livelihoods and overall regional competitiveness.
In Manufacturing in the United States, Mexico, and Central America: Implications for Competitiveness and Migration, authors Peter Creticos and Eleanor Sohnen examine how aggressive manufacturing-attraction strategies have benefited the economies of Mexico, and to a lesser extent, the Northern Triangle. Yet the achievements of the maquiladora development strategy have masked important flaws that threaten to stymie the promise of even greater economic growth.
The authors make the case that these countries need to achieve a post-maquila transformation. They also outline the need for the regional workforce to gain the skills to compete with counterparts in advanced manufacturing regions such as northern Europe and Japan. Credentialing standards, training systems, and outcome measures that are comparable to those in industrialized economies will serve as the basis for attracting talent from outside the region as well as expanding employment options for homegrown talent.
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