The automotive sector in Mexico. The impact of automation and digitalization on employment.

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Brussels (2023)


Automation not only forms part of the manufacturing industry, but it is constantly growing, with varying, and sometimes contradictory, labor impacts. On one hand, automation may be accompanied by unemployment and deskilling, while on the other, it may require job reskilling and the hiring of people with new skills. In this sense, there is an important debate around the impacts on work of the implementation of new technologies, such as automation, robots, and digitalization (Autor, et al., 2020; Anzolin, 2021, Krzywdzinski, 2021). In simple terms, automation refers to tasks performed by intelligent, reprogrammable machines (Kamaruddin et al., 2013), and it also refers to the replacement of labor by (relatively autonomous) machine inputs (Eurofound, 2018). According to Anzolin (2021), automation emerged in the 1960s with the implementation of the first robotic arms in industrial production and, since then, has increasingly expanded, driven by new technologies (such as computerized numerical control and more recently, robotics).

In recent years, an important debate has intensified regarding the impact of the implementation of automation and digitization on employment. There are different studies and positions in this regard, although these technologies are being used more and more in different sectors. The automotive industry stands out in particular as a large consumer and producer of new technologies, such as those associated with Industry 4.0.

The automotive industry in Mexico occupies an important position, both economically as well as socially, regardless of the fact that the country follows a semi-peripheral model (Domanski, et al. 2014) with no domestic auto assemblers. The almost a million people employed by suppliers and final assemblers make the issue of automation and digitalization a priority for the future of the industry. On one hand, and as indicated at the beginning of this document, the technological tendencies of automation, robotization and digitalization have been implemented in OEM plants in Mexico, although at different speeds and magnitudes. On the other hand, as in the case of wages, employment has increased, with expectations of further growth due to the announced increase in EV production in Mexico, the expansion of companies such as those studied, or the enthusiasm for nearshoring and its “enormous potential” (Garrido, 2022).

The main objective of this research was to understand the implementation of automation and digitalization processes in the manufacturing industry in Mexico and their effects on employment and labor processes. We selected two OEM plants from the automotive sector that are implementing new technologies, albeit at different stages and degrees of development. Case studies of the Toyota-Guanajuato (TMMGT) and Ford-Hermosillo (HSAP) plants were taken as sample-cases for this study.

A qualitative methodology is used based on guided visits to the plants, review of internal documents and face-to-face interviews with managers and workers. The field work was carried out at the end of 2021 and in the second half of 2022.

The study provides a look inside these plants and documents the automation and digitization processes that the two companies currently have, as well as their involvement in the organization of work, the occupational composition, the salary structure and the volume of employment. The results of the study question the perspective that argues that automation and digitization are causing unemployment, deskilling, and job insecurity in this sector.

This study is part of the Project of the International Labor Organization and the European Commission on the future of employment entitled: "Building Partnership on the Future of Work" (Joint EU-ILO Project).


Autor, D., Mindell, D. and Reynolds, E. (2020). The Work of the Future. Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines, [Report] Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Anzolin, G. (2021). Automation and its employment effects: A literature review of automotive and garment sectors. International Labour Organization.
Domanski, B., Klier, T. and Rubenstein, J. (2014). “Is Central Europe the Mexico of Europe? The automotive semi-periphery in the comparative perspective”, Paper presented at the 22nd International Colloquium of GERPISA, Old and New Spaces of the Automotive Industry: Towards a New Balance?, Kyoto University, Japan, June 4–6.
Eurofound. (2018). Automation, digitization and platforms: Implications for work and employment. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxemburg.
Garrido, C. (2022). México en la fábrica de América del Norte y el nearshoring. CEPAL.
Kamaruddin, S., Mohammad, M., Mahbub, R. & Ahmad, K. (2013). “Mechanisation and Automation of the IBS Construction Approach: A Malaysian Experience”. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 105, 106–114.
Krzywdzinski, M. (2021). “Automation, digitalization, and changes in occupational structures in the automobile industry in Germany, Japan, and the United States: A brief history from the early 1990s until 2018”. Industrial and Corporate Change.

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