National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Hold on a sec. I’m a little confused about messages being sent out about Mexico.

On one hand, there are stories portraying the interior of Mexico as near-ghost towns, giving the impression that everyone who wanted to cross the border to get to the U.S. has already done so. And if they are in the U.S., they sorely want to go back to Mexico.

This article in Real Clear Politics ably discusses the change in thinking about the flow of workers from Mexico.

The gist of the RCP piece is this: the “mass migration” of immigrants from Mexico to the U.S. has slowed to a trickle, and alas, is perhaps turning the other way. The story cites a Pew Hispanic Center report from last year that shockingly concluded there might now be more migration from the U.S. to Mexico than the other way around.

We can acknowledge that the U.S. has not been the job-creating machine it once was. And the Real Clear Politics piece also stipulates that the Mexican economy has been heating up, with an employment rate of less than 5% compared to the U.S. rate of close to 8%.

Just as I am about to conclude that no young Mexican male in his right mind would leave his mother country to take his chances in America, I’m reading a report from Reuters  that matter-of-factly states that Mexico’s strong population growth until 2020 will put downward pressure on wages. Mexico’s hourly wages are about 20% lower than China today, while a decade ago Mexico’s wages were 188% higher than China, according to a Bank of America study.

Forecasts cited from the International Labor Organization forecast that Mexico's economically active population will grow by 20% from 2010 to 2020. Given what “demographic bonus” is in play for at least the next five years, according to this report, do we really think the pressure to find economic opportunities in the U.S. will decrease in the next few years?

The fact is that 28% of Mexico’s population is 14 years or younger, compared with just 20% for that age set in the U.S. The 15-21 year old population is 18% of the total in Mexico, compared with just 13% in the U.S.

For an in-depth view of future flow scenarios from Mexico, check out this report by the Regional Migration Study Group, called “Mexican migration to the United States:Underlying Economic Factors and Possible Scenarios for Future Flows”

Notwithstanding all that is good about Mexico’s improving economy, it seems to me that there will be pressure for young Mexicans to enter the U.S. for years to come. That is one more reason that Congress needs to provide ample room for legal Mexican guest workers for U.S. agriculture in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation.