NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Back to the future: sweatshop conditions on the Mexico-U.S. border II. Occupational health impact of maquiladora industrial activity.

Moure-Eraso R; Wilcox M; Punnett L; MacDonald L; Levenstein C
Am J Ind Med 1997 May; 31(5):587-599
Present working conditions in one of the most active areas of the maquiladora system along the Mexico-U.S. border are reminiscent of nineteenth-century U.S. sweatshops. The organization of production is Tayloristic and authoritarian, with detailed division of labor, repetitive simple tasks, and piecework wages. Modern participative management styles are not apparent in the maquiladora setting. This study consists of two separate but interrelated surveys conducted in 1992, one of community leaders and this one of workers in maquiladora enterprises in the towns of Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico. The community survey evaluated the economic and psychosocial impact of the maquiladora enterprise and was conducted simultaneously to the workers' survey and in the same Mexican towns where the workers lived and worked. The community leaders acknowledged the employment opportunities that maquiladora factories had brought to the region but believed them to have high environmental and psychosocial costs. For the occupational component, a community-based survey of 267 maquiladora workers was conducted. participants were chosen with more than a year seniority in the industry and living in the two Mexican cities surveyed. They responded to an extensive questionnaire given by trained canvassers. The workers' survey found evidence that maquiladora workers (81% female) report symptoms from musculoskeletal disorders related to working conditions. Acute health effects compatible with chemical exposures were also identified. Prevalence of symptoms was correlated with increasing duration of exposure to ergonomic risk factors and qualitative chemical exposure indexes. Other chronic disease was not apparent. The survey demonstrated inequalities in salary, working hours, and safety training between the two communities. Matamoros workers are substantially better paid and work fewer hours per week than Reynosa workers. Most hazards reported in the worker's survey have been well studied in the general occupational health literature with respect to adverse health effects. Therefore, it is recommended that hazard surveillance studies would be more useful towards the goal of prevention than further etiologic studies. Specific recommendations on policy and remediation interventions are also made.
Occupational health; Ergonomics; Risk factors; Risk analysis; Manual materials handling; Work environment; Work operations; Workplace monitoring; Workplace studies; Workshops; Musculoskeletal system disorders; Demographic characteristics; Sociological factors; Author Keywords: maquiladoras; occupational health; ergonomics; risk perception
Dr. Rafeal Moure-Eraso, Work Enviroment Department, One University Avenue, Lowell, MA 01854
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Fiscal Year
Issue of Publication
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Research Tools and Approaches; Intervention Effectiveness Research; Special Populations; Work Environment And Workforce
Source Name
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Page last reviewed: March 3, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division