Protracted corporatism and social policy reforms in Mexico
Ricardo Velázquez Leyer
Paper short abstract:
This paper argues that recent structural social policy reforms in Mexico can be explained by the high degree of institutionalisation of corporatist arrangements established during the PRI regime, now compatible with the processes of economic and political liberalisation adopted after the 1980s.
Paper long abstract:
During the twentieth century social policies in the form of social insurance programmes became one of the principal components of the Mexican corporatist regime. It has been argued that the processes of economic and political liberalisation undertaken after the 1980s resulted in the dismantling of corporatist structures and triggered the transformation of the country's social policy system. Reforms have included new social insurance legislation for private and public sector workers, the introduction of the social assistance Oportunidades programme and of the voluntary health insurance programme Seguro Popular, and more recently the expansion of non-contributory pensions and a new unemployment insurance scheme. This paper explores the causes behind these changes in Mexican social policy, attempting to combine both institutional and discoursive approaches. The main arguments are that the weakening of corporatist structures can only partially explain the reforms, and that on the contrary, historical legacies from the corporatist phase can largely account for the policy changes. Such legacies are evident in the high degree of institutionalisation of corporatist arrangements orginally materialised during the PRI regime, which made them highly resilient and eventually compatible with the neoliberal hegemony of the twenty-first century. The final outcome is a fragmented social policy system that fails to offer adequate levels of protection to significantly reduce the high levels of poverty and inequality that affect the country.
On Mexican time: politics and the past in twentieth and twenty first-century Mexico