Mexico Role of Women
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
Beginning in the 1970s and over the next two decades, dramatic changes occurred in the role of women in the Mexican economy. In 1990 women represented 31 percent of the economically active population, double the percentage recorded twenty years earlier. The demographics of women in the workforce also changed during this period. In 1980 the typical female worker was under twenty-five years of age. Her participation in the workforce was usually transitional and would end following marriage or childbirth. After the 1970s, however, an emerging feminist movement made it more acceptable for educated Mexican women to pursue careers. In addition, the economic crisis of the 1980s required many married women to return to the job market to help supplement their husbands' income. About 70 percent of women workers in the mid-1990s were employed in the tertiary sector of the economy, usually at wages below those of men.
The growing presence of women in the workforce contributed to some changes in social attitudes, despite the prevalence of other more traditional attitudes. The UNAM 1995 national opinion survey, for example, found a growing acceptance that men and women should share in family responsibilities. Approximately half of all respondents agreed that husbands and wives should jointly handle child-care duties and perform housekeeping chores. However, such views were strongly related to income and educational level. Low income and minimally educated respondents regarded household tasks as women's work. The UNAM responses correlated with the findings of Mercedes González de la Rocha, whose research focused on working-class households in Guadalajara. González de la Rocha reported that the members of these households held traditional norms and values regarding the roles of men and women. In addition, these women were often subjected to control, domination, and violence by men.
Observers noted that women generally were held to a stricter sexual code of conduct than men. Sexual activity outside of marriage was regarded as immoral for "decent" women but acceptable for men.
The 1980s and early 1990s witnessed a notable shift in religious affiliation and in church-state relations in Mexico. Although Mexico remains predominantly Roman Catholic, evangelical churches have dramatically expanded their membership. Motivated in part by the evangelical challenge, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has sought greater visibility, speaking out on sensitive public issues and ignoring constitutional bans on clerical involvement in politics. These actions ultimately led in 1992 to dramatic constitutional changes and a resumption of diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
The Roman Catholic share of the population declined steadily during the period from 1970 to 1990. In 1970, 96.2 percent of the population five years of age and older identified itself as Roman Catholic. That dropped to 92.6 percent of the population in the 1980 census and to 89.7 percent in 1990. The 1990 census revealed significant regional variations in numbers of Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics represented more than 95 percent of all Mexicans in a band of central-western states extending from Zacatecas to Michoacán. In contrast, the least Roman Catholic presence was found in the southeastern states of Chiapas, Campeche, Tabasco, and Quintana Roo.
Dozens of evangelical denominations have engaged in strong recruitment efforts since 1970. Protestant or "evangelical" affiliation--the terminology used by Mexican census officials--surged from 1.8 percent in 1970 to 3.3 percent in 1980 and to 4.9 percent in 1990. Traditional Protestant denominations, including Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, have had a small urban presence dating from the late 1800s. However, the Protestant membership explosion during the 1970-90 period was led by congregations affiliated with churches such as the Assemblies of God, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mor mons), and Jehovah's Witnesses. For example, the Mormons reported that membership surged from 248,000 in 1980 to 617,000 in 1990 and increased further to 688,000 by 1993.
Protestant or evangelical growth was especially strong in southeastern Mexico. In 1990 Protestants or evangelicals composed 16 percent of the population in Chiapas, 15 percent in Tabasco, 14 percent in Campeche, and 12 percent in Quintana Roo. Yet a significant evangelical presence also has appeared in several other areas, including the states of Veracruz and México, where more than 20 percent of all Protestants or evangelicals live.
Data as of June 1996
NOTE: The information regarding Mexico on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Mexico Role of Women information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Mexico Role of Women should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.