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Find in Worldcat. There are three broad job classifications of employees at the plant: directors or managers, administrative support including professionals and clerical employees, and technicians or assembly plant production workers. Women hold positions only in the middle job category as clerical workers and as professionals.

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A plant spokesperson explained that men, without exception, are hired in the technical positions because of the double shift one shift is evening-night rotation every three months and heavy work. What factors created such occupational sex segregation? The Mexican constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or sex. Mexican labor law has changed to permit women to work in the same jobs as men and to repeal the nighttime prohibition against working women. Stereotypes are being increasingly challenged, however, as more women workers are hired in assembly plants especially on the US-Mexico border [Tiano, ] and as women become managers.

The lack of women in management at the plant is somewhat puzzling because Mexican women are slowly making advances into such ranks. Women now make up 20 percent of all administrative and managerial workers in Mexico whereas twenty years ago they made up 7 percent [International Labor Office, ].

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There is some indication, however, that such beliefs are beginning to change as women slowly move into professional positions [Kras, ]. The FMH may be overlooking an emerging and important human resource. In professional positions, Mexican women occupy 40 percent of such jobs nationally. Their presence reflects higher educational levels achieved by women in recent times, changing norms regarding gender and work, and recent economic pressures.

Although women occupy about 10 percent of the administrative support category at FMH, only a few are in professional categories. Most jobs are located in clerical-related positions, the largest category of Mexican women workers nationally. One can conclude that women occupy few positions at this plant where they may earn more than minimum wage. Such inequity in employment is a contributory factor towards the lower average wage for Mexican women in comparison to Mexican men, a situation similar to the United States.

Japanese Management Transferred

Both in Mexico and in the U. In Mexico, however, this percentage recently declined because of the economic crisis. In the following section, we explore several issues related to the quality of work life. The term "quality of work life" varies in meaning among practitioners and academic scholars. In the traditional Fordist system, workers were treated like single purpose machine tools and it was implied that individuals need to leave their brains at the door. In the Japanese lean system and the FMH, there is more team influence on work, but with some significant limitations and added stressors and group controls as we discuss below.

Work teams at FMH, as at other lean assembly plants, are important structures for training and kaizen continuous quality improvement activities. They are the primary means, furthermore, for cultural and technical socialization. Work teams foster group goals, norms, and loyalty, and they serve as a means of imposing peer pressure. For example, teams discipline their members for absenteeism, and teams or their supervisors have to make up time for an absent or late member. Moreover, lean production teams and their supervisors are responsible for many of the traditional management responsibilities of the Fordist system such as quality inspections, training, scheduling, and sometimes maintenance, and they typically integrate skilled and production jobs.

The responsibilities described above combined with peer and management controls and the discipline and machine-pacing of a large volume, high-tech assembly line result in repetitive and stressful jobs. Lean system managers believe that intense levels of pressure are essential to high quality productivity.

This is a considerable deterrent to team cohesion and performance. The lean system is dependent on the team-based workforce that requires careful pre-employment screening, and expensive, intensive and ongoing training. Although quality and productivity figures were not available to us, it seems safe to say that the impact of high turnover on team morale is significant. The stressful nature of the assembly line production work remains a significant factor especially for workers with little previous factory experience. The lean production system, like the Fordist system before it, is a socio-technical system operating within a larger industrialized global economy which has a well defined, highly competitive growth and profit imperative.

Some social critics see these highly competitive global organizations as inherently amoral [Mander, ], or as displacing issues of community well-being and citizen democracy [Korten, ]. While these may be dissonant points of view, it is common knowledge that human and social interests are often of secondary importance to achieving competitive corporate growth and profit. It is true that FMH is providing jobs in a depressed economy where employment is difficult to find even though its jobs are highly stressful and the wages relatively low. The recent economic crisis in Mexico has not substantively affected the plant operations, according to plant spokespersons, because its production is export-related.

Moreover, the macroeconomic gains made by the plant for Sonora and Mexico over the past decade far outweigh the initial incentives given to the company. We have examined the achievements that Ford, Mazda, and the Mexican managers and employees have made in successfully transferring and adapting the lean system, and to its local Mexican suppliers.


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  8. In the concluding section, we draw together our analysis of the FMH to assess its implications as a model for developing economies. In the preceding sections we referred to investments involved at the FMH as benefiting the local and national economies and we noted some problematic aspects of work life. Our assessment leads to the question: is the FMH a good or even adequate model for developing economies?

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    The evaluation of the costs and benefits of investments such as the FMH is not a simple process and it rarely results in a definitive answer. In this final section, we point out some of the factors involved without attempting to come to a definitive analysis. We draw some tentative conclusions, however, about the desirability of these types of investments as transition strategies for development. A simple accounting begins with an evaluation of the benefits and costs of the plant in the short run.

    By short-run we refer to benefits and costs with respect to immediate priorities that the city of Hermosillo, the state of Sonora, or Mexico might consider. On the positive side we suggest several benefits: 1 Net exports which bring foreign exchange into the country and the region and contribute to macroeconomic stability; 2 cross-national technology transfer to suppliers and other manufacturers that introduces efficient and high quality production processes that demonstrate what can be done to compete in the international economy; 3 Employment income, training, housing, and other such benefits that the plant provides to its employees as well as acquired skills that enable workers to be mobile for other employment options; 4 Economic activity that the plant generates due to its demand for services and just-in-time inputs in the local economy; 5 Revenue that the plant provides at the state and federal level from taxes.

    While these costs are important, they may diminish in significance when compared to the quality of work life that could have existed for workers if the plant had not been built and if the resulting industrialization of the region had not taken place. Whether such quality of work life comparison is with subsistence agricultural work or with less technologically advanced industrial work as in the local cement plant or quarries , it can be argued that the FMH presents a relatively better quality of work life for its workers than previously available opportunities.

    This does not imply, however, that the quality of work life in the plant is good or desirable in the long-run.