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Mexico: Social Security
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Health Care and Social Security > Social Security


Mexico's social security agencies are financed through contributions from members, employers, and the government. In the mid-1990s, contributions averaged around 25 percent of members' salaries. Although informal-sector workers may subscribe to the IMSS, they are effectively prevented from doing so because they must pay not only their own share but that of their employers as well. Members are eligible for a wide array of benefits including pension, disability, and maternity coverage. A variety of other services are also available to all Mexicans, including theaters, vacation centers, funeral parlors, and day-care centers. Approximately 1.5 million Mexicans received monthly pensions in the mid-1990s, a higher figure than in previous decades, reflecting gains in average life expectancy.

An actuarial crisis is expected to threaten the fiscal solvency of the social security system by the early twenty-first century. Analyst Carmelo Mesa-Lago has noted numerous problems confronting the system, including rising administrative expenditures, redundant physical plants, the high costs of complex medical technology for IMSS's approximately 1,700 hospitals, and continual transfers of pension funds to cover deficits in disability and maternity programs. In early 1996, IMSS projected its first annual budget deficit. In December 1995, the legislature approved a plan to enhance the viability of social security by expanding its contributory base from the informal sector. In addition, Mexicans can establish privately operated individual retirement accounts. That element of the plan, to take effect in January 1997, was also designed to increase domestic savings to finance future economic growth.

Despite impressive gains in the health care system during the second half of the twentieth century, Mexico's health care and education systems and, indeed, its entire society remain in a profound state of transition. The population of states in northern Mexico and many urban areas exhibits social indicators on a par with those of developed countries, whereas statistics for southern Mexico and most rural areas are comparable to those of the developing world. One of the key challenges for Mexico in the twenty-first century, therefore, will be to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding and urbanizing population while continuing to improve living conditions for the many disadvantaged segments of its society.The various publications of the government's National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Informatics provide invaluable statistical data on Mexican society. Complete discussions of major environmental issues can be found in the edited work of Enrique Leff, Medio ambiente y desarrollo en México, and in Población, recursos, y medio ambiente en México, authored by Vicente Sánchez, Margarita Castillejos, and Lenora Rojas Bracho. Alan R. Sandstorm's Corn Is Our Blood: Culture and Ethnic Identity in a Contemporary Aztec Indian Village offers an excellent introduction to Indian values and attitudes. Alan Gilbert and Peter M. Ward's Housing, the State and the Poor: Policy and Practice in Three Latin American Cities, and Gilbert's edited volume, Housing and Land in Urban Mexico, comprehensively examine issues surrounding Mexico's self-help communities. Juan Manuel Ramírez Saiz's edited work, Normas y prácticas morales y cívicas en la vida cotidiana, provides a penetrating look at interpersonal relations in Mexico. On the same topic, the edited volume of Alberto Hernández Medina and Luis Narro Rodríguez, Como somos los mexicanos, presents rich statistical data of a national survey conducted by the Center for Educational Studies. Continuities and changes in Mexican attitudes in the mid-1990s are ably documented in the UNAM-sponsored Los mexicanos de los noventa . Gilberto Guevara Niebla's edited collection, La catástrofe silenciosa, is indispensable reading on the problems besetting the Mexican education system. La salud en México: Testimonios 1988, edited by Guillermo Soberón, Jesús Kumate, and José Laguna, offers thorough coverage of Mexico's health care system. The Mexican government's internet home page,, also contains extensive information on social policy and has links to the various secretariats. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of June 1996

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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