David Dodd 10:32 a.m., May 25
Baja California’s maquiladora industry is once again booming after losing ground for years to Asian competitors and suffering from waning U.S. demand in the midst of the economic recession, Public Radio International reports.
Now, however, demand is up for factory workers just across the U.S./Mexico border, especially in technology oriented fields such as aerospace. Rising wages in China and increased fuel costs for transportation are conspiring to make operation costs in Mexico more competitive.
“People’s perception about what cross-border manufacturing, what maquiladoras are like, is still based upon what was happening in the 70s and maybe the 1980s,” San Diego market research firm Crossborder Group president Kenn Morris told PRI.
Over 50 aerospace and defense industry companies have set up operations in Mexico in the last decade, employing more than 10,000 high-tech workers. Many occupy jobs in engineering and software development, skilled fields that salaries far lower than those commanded across the border. Average pay for a senior aerospace engineer in San Diego, for example, is around $90,000, while in Tijuana the same position pays $35,000-45,000.
Still, workers appreciate the stability the companies bring, and wages and working conditions are still superior to other Mexican industries. Teresa Jesus Rio Ramos, a production supervisor, told PRI she likes her $1,800/month job, and isn’t interested in seeking work in San Diego, even though she could potentially double her salary. “I’ve gotten a lot of professional training here in Tijuana. I’m not interested in changing the course of my story.”