Higher Education and Employment: Highlights From the Economic History of Mexico

Higher Education and Employment: Highlights From the Economic History of Mexico

Jose Ernesto Rangel Delgado (University of Colima, Mexico) and Antonina Ivanova Boncheva (Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur, Mexico)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2779-5.ch007


The articulation of higher education and employment acquires special relevance due to its impact to the youth labor market. Some of the tendencies in the Mexican economy during the sixties and seventies and the beginning of the eighties until the 21st century are the following: the expansion of educational coverage, the urbanization of development and labor market, as well as the middle-class consolidation and graduate exclusion of the labor market. These factors oriented the higher education predominantly to human resources generation, firstly, for the industrial sector and, secondly, for the tertiary sector of the knowledge society with a large unemployment and underemployment of graduates.
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At present, knowledge is the central element of the new productive paradigm. Unlike other times, competitive advantages are not only based on natural factors, but on aspects related to the generalization and application of knowledge.

Thus, any development strategy depends, to a large extent, on the existence of a solid science and technology system, of trained managerial and administrative cadres and of educated manpower. And the former is based on an appropriate articulation between education and the productive sector. The education can’t be restricted to a purely utilitarian dimension, being indisputable that education and capacity building are decisive factors for the development process responding with relevance and flexibility to changing conditions. Further, the graduates need a labor structure that takes advantage of their abilities, which implies a coherent and solid industrial and economic policy that channels with adequately the available human resources.

In the current environment of economic globalization and even global fragmentation of markets, it is important to understand from a historical perspective the main economic growth models that have characterized Mexico, and their relationship with higher education and employment in order to identify some factors that arise from the linking of public policies that support new strategies aimed at the youth labor market.

From 1930 to 1958, Mexico carried out industrialization process based on the imports’ substitution with the active participation of national capital that was formed after 1930 and with a strong state that allowed the consolidation of the existing national businesses.

In economic terms, during this period the use of national resources by incipient national companies was fomented for the generation of productive chains. The economic policy of the period was based on the stimulus of public spending and investment and, to a lesser extent, on private investment. The government was interested in promoting full employment in the face of a protectionist policy.

The expropriation of oil in 1938 meant for Mexico a rupture with the technological source provided by the United States. This led to an economic disorder whose correction was subsequently reflected in the consolidation of Mexico's oil system. Likewise, the Keynesian policy of full employment allowed the continuity of the protectionist policy along with the contemporary nationalist discourse.

From 1946 to 1958 the process of industrialization was reorganized; this is the period when the oil, chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, automotive, household appliances and light electrical machinery industries were established. There was also a more active participation of foreign capital, particularly in the form of direct foreign investment.

However, from 1958 to 1970, the presence of foreign capital began to decrease due to the stricter state control of the basic sectors owned by foreigners (the government acquires the two largest foreign companies generating electric power and new legislation on mining industry was issued). A new moment of industrialization was beginning to take shape in the economic history of Mexico, although doubts arose about the “contribution of foreign capital to the technological progress of a society whose delay in this aspect is directly due to the inadequate educational system. This interpretation [....] of the problem was and still is defining the policy of industrialization including the education as an important factor “(Fonseca, 1994).

With the development of the capital goods industry, from 1970 to 1980 imports’ substitution deepened. The exploitation of new oil fields and the sale of oil, as well as the opening of international credit, attracted a high flow of foreign capital that made viable the development of a national capital goods industry. However, bypassing the industrial discipline that implied imports’ substitution and allocating a large amount of foreign currency to the imports of different kinds of products, affected the integration of the Mexican industry.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Research: Activity oriented to the obtaining of new knowledge and its application for the solution to problems or questions of scientific character.

Knowledge Society: Engine of the economy and social development through science and technology advances.

Labor Market: Is the relationship of the demand (employers) with the job offer (employees) at a certain price that is the salary.

Graduate Students: That sector of population that finished higher education.

Youth: Is the age that immediately precedes adulthood and is situated after childhood, aged between 21-29.

Import Substitution: Also called import substitution industrialization, is a commercial and economic policy that advocates replacing foreign imports with domestic production.

Higher Education: Higher education is the last phase of the academic learning process after the high school stage, focused at universities, colleges or technical training academy at a professional level.

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