The labor force in Mexico numbered 39.8 million in 2000. Services accounted for 56% of those employed, with industry accounting for 24%, and agriculture the remaining 20%. Underemployment, Mexico's major labor problem, affected mainly those engaged in agriculture. According to official figures, unemployment was reported at 3% in 2001, but was indicative of only the largest metropolitan areas. Rural unemployment was believed to be significantly higher.
As of 2002, approximately 25% of the labor force was unionized. The Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM, founded in 1936) is the largest union federation. The second largest trade unions confederation is the Federation of Government Employee Unions (FSTSE), consisting exclusively of federal workers. The Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Confederation (CROC) is considered to be the rival of the FSTSE, a rivalry encouraged by the government in order to discourage a monopoly of power by the FSTSE. Unions must register with the government. The right to strike is permitted with advance notice and some brief mediation.
Under the federal labor law, every employee is entitled to one paid day of rest after every six days of work, seven paid holidays, and at least six days of vacation after a year of employment and at least eight days after two years. An annual bonus equal to 15 days' pay is required to be paid to all employees before Christmas, and vacation pay carries a 25% premium. The workday is generally eight hours, and double or triple pay must be paid for overtime. Children as young as 14 may work, but with severe restrictions as to the conditions and hours of employment. Child labor provisions are well-enforced among medium and large companies, but many children work in smaller companies, in agriculture, or in the informal economy, usually in family enterprises.
The minimum wage varies by geographical area; there is no national minimum wage. In 2002, the minimum wage in southeast Veracruz State, including Mexico City, was $3.99 per day. Only about 16% of workers earn the minimum wage. Many workers earn less, while those employed by prosperous industrial enterprises can earn three to four times more. Employers are required by law to observe health and safety regulations.