Posts Tagged ‘Mexican States’

Mexico dreaming

Friday, June 7th, 2013

No country in history has been able to eliminate or even alleviate elder poverty with employment-related, contributory pensions alone. The authors of a study sponsored by Centro Fox, AARP, and the RAND Corporation are nonetheless confident that Mexico will somehow succeed in doing this. This is a very strange, very optimistic report. (more…)

universal pensions in Mexico City – update

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Now that federal government guarantees a minimum pension of 525 pesos (US$40) a month to all legal residents of Mexico aged 65 years or older, state governments are eliminating their own social pensions rather than add to the meager federal benefit. It is thus noteworthy that the government of the Federal District (Mexico City), with its long history of universal social pensions, remains firmly committed to continuing them without change. (more…)

Mexico City’s universal pension explained

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

I have often wondered whether Mexico City was following the example of others – perhaps New Zealand, Mauritius or Bolivia – twelve years ago when it introduced a universal age pension. Now I have satisfied my curiosity, partially at least. In November of 2003, Rosa Elena Bernal Díaz, editor of a quarterly magazine published by the government of Mexico City, interviewed the intellectual author of the city’s universal pension: Dr Asa Cristina Laurell. In it, Ms Bernal asks Dr Laurell a pointed question concerning the origin of the idea of a universal pension: “How did it happen? Where did the idea come from? Is there some antecedent or not, for this type of programme?”

Before examining Dr Laurell’s response to the question, I would like to provide some background on this remarkable woman. She was born in 1943 in Uppsala (Sweden) and in 1971 graduated from the University of Lund as a physician/surgeon. In 1967 she received a scholarship to study public health at the University of California-Berkeley where she graduated with a Masters in Public Health. During her stay at Berkeley she joined protests against the Vietnam War and in support of civil rights for African-Americans. She emigrated to Mexico in 1971, became a nationalized citizen the same year, and in 1987 earned a PhD in sociology from the largest university in Mexico (UNAM). She was extremely active politically, participating in the founding of Mujeres en Acción Solidaria (MAS, Women’s Solidarity Movement) in 1971, then in the founding of the leftist PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) in 1989. Dr Laurell was an integral part of the successful campaign of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) for mayor of Mexico City. For this, she was rewarded in December 2000 with the post of Secretary of Health. She left this post in May 2006, with her goals fully accomplished, to support AMLO in his campaign for the presidency of Mexico.

Asa Cristina Laurell


the end of social pensions in Mexican states?

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Some states in Mexico see the lowering of the federal government’s universal minimum pension age from 70 to 65 as an opportunity to end their own social pensions. The new government in Chiapas, for example, is invoking this as an excuse to end its experiment with universal pensions. And the government of Guerrero (the state where Acapulco is located) has just announced the end of its social pension, “Pensión Guerrero”, the oldest in Mexico after that of Mexico City. For more than 50,000 pensioners in Guerrero, the March/April 2013 benefit payment will be their last one. To continue to receive a pension, they must apply for benefits from the federal agency, SEDESOL.

La secretaria de Desarrollo Social del Estado, Beatriz Mojica Morga, aseguró que el gobierno del estado realizará el último pago correspondiente al bimestre marzo-abril, por lo que pidió a las personas de la tercera edad permanecer atentas para realizar su último cobro en este mes de mayo en los lugares de costumbre.

“Pensión Guerrero” nació en el año 2003 … [y] actualmente beneficiaba a más de 50 mil personas con un presupuesto anual de 300 millones de pesos al año. ….

[E]l padrón de beneficiarios del programa “Pensión Guerrero” será absorbido por un nuevo programa que impulsa el gobierno federal, y que se encargará de atender a todos los adultos mayores de 65 años de edad del país, siempre y cuando no tengan acceso a beneficios de otro programa de esta naturaleza.

Carlos Cabrera, “Guerrero desaparece programa de pensiones“, El Universal, 13 May 2013.

The federal pension is small – 525 pesos (US$40) a month – so state governments in the past have allowed their elderly to claim benefits simultaneously from the federal and state governments. As of 2012, 17 of Mexico’s 32 state governments had social pensions in place for aged residents. It remains to be seen how many state schemes will remain following this year’s massive expansion of the federal programme.

There is no logical reason for state initiatives to end. Top-ups of the small federal pensions are common, for example, in states of India and the USA. Mexico City’s universal pension, which is nearly twice the size of the federal benefit, will undoubtedly remain in place, with elderly residents drawing both federal and local pensions in the future, just as they have in the past.

social pensions in Zacatecas (Mexico)

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Note: this is the last state in this series. Soon I will begin pulling all of this information together, and attempt to make sense of it. Mexico contains an incredible number of laboratories, of varied experiments with social pensions. Why do some states have generous social pensions while others have none? This are questions that I intend to ask, and then search for answers.

Centre-left PRD governor Amalia D. García Medina introduced Zacatecas to social pensions in 2009, with a programme called “Al Rescate de los Abuelos”. Benefits were (and still are) 400 pesos (US$30) a month. The intent is to target those poor who are 70 years of age or older and live in urban areas that are outside the federal 70+ scheme. Both schemes – state and federal – pay cash benefits bimonthly.

Miguel Alejandro Alonso Reyes, who is a member of the traditional PRI, replaced Ms Garcia as governor on 12 September 2010. One of Mr Alonso’s first acts was to change the name of the social pension to “Sumando a los Abuelos” and reduce the targeted number of beneficiaries by two-thirds: from 8,500 to 2,500. Otherwise the programme remains the same. Only its name was changed and – importantly – the number of beneficiaries. By September of 2012 the government could boast of a large increase in beneficiaries (from the new, lower level) to 2,998.

The federal 70+ programme is expanding rapidly in Zacatecas, reaching urban as well as rural communities. The number of 70+ pensioners increased from 64,533 at the end of 2011 to 69,911 in June of 2012. The goal is to have 71,817 registered pensioners by the end of 2012. How does the Zacatecas social pension, received by about 3,000 seniors, fit into the federal scheme? According to the rules of the state scheme, it should soon cease to exist. Beneficiaries of the state scheme are explicitly prohibited from receiving a 70+ pension. Since the 70+ pension is 25% larger than the state pension, there is no question that recipients will be eager to leave the state system.

Despite what is written in the legislation, the director of the department in charge of “Sumando a los Abuelos” believes that his programme can function in harmony with the federal scheme and that, together, the two programmes can provide ‘universal’ support to those who need it in the population aged 70 years and older. I see a number of difficulties with this vision. First, the coverage of the federal system is huge compared to that of the state system: there are more than 20 seniors in the federal 70+ scheme for each senior in the state scheme. Second, unless the state pension is increased to at least the federal level, this ratio will explode. No-one will want to remain with a state pension when they have access to a larger federal benefit. Third, state pensions could be increased to the federal level, but this would not be a good use of scarce state funds, as the benefits would otherwise be paid from the federal budget. It would be more useful to use state funds instead to provide pensions to residents who are aged 65 to 69 years, but have low incomes and so are unable to continue working because of age or disability.

Below are two news articles (in Spanish). The first (November 2010) discusses the decision to reduce the number of beneficiaries in 2011. The second (October 2012) reports the opinions of the director of the Sistema Estatal para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (SEDIF) concerning future co-operation between the income-tested “Sumando a los Abuelos” scheme and the pension-tested federal “70+” scheme. (more…)

universal pensions in Yucatan (Mexico)

Friday, October 19th, 2012

This updates a TdJ blog of 15 January 2012. Yucatan’s social pension, known as “Reconocer Urbano”, is universal for all residents from the age of 70. It began operating in December 2008 as a pilot programme in Valladolid, the third largest city in the state (population about 46,000). Beneficiaries receive 550 pesos (US$43) a month, slightly more than the 500 peso pension of the federal 70+ scheme that, at the time, was limited to rural communities. Beginning this year (2012) all residents of Yucatan who do not receive any other federal pension become eligible for a 500 peso monthly minimum pension from the 70+ scheme, regardless of whether they live in rural or urban communities.

The programme never went beyond the pilot town of Valladolid, but the number of beneficiaries did increase from an initial 1,047 to 1,800 by March of 2010.  By 2011, for unknown reasons, the number of beneficiaries was down to 1,674. In February of 2012 community leaders complained that the state government dropped, without apparent justification, another 159 pensioners from Reconocer Urbano, reducing the list to 1,515.

It now seems unlikely that Reconocer Urbano will ever become anything other than a small pilot programme, so I have decided to move Yucatan to the list of states without social pensions. This is, after all, the reality for Yucatan seniors who reside anywhere other than the town of Valladolid.

Below is a short news article (in Spanish) reporting complaints that 159 pensioners in Valladolid, Yucatan, had been removed without explanation from the list of beneficiaries. (more…)

social pensions in Veracruz (Mexico)

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

The social pension for elderly residents of the state of Veracruz, known as “Pensión Alimenticia para Adultos Mayores de 70 años”, began in the year 2005, with 6,857 beneficiaries. Eligibility requires a minimum age of 70 years, 20 years residence in the state, complete absence of income, and no support from social security systems of the state or the federal government. The benefit is fixed at one-half of the minimum salary in Xalapa (capital of Veracruz), paid quarterly. For 2012, the minimum salary in Xalapa is 59.08 pesos a day, so the social pension is 886 pesos (69 US dollars) a month, paid as 2,658 pesos quarterly.

The pension is larger that the federal 70+ benefit of 500 pesos, so there is an advantage to a pensioner to stay in the state programme. In Veracruz, unless authorities are ‘looking the other way’, it is not possible for a recipient of the 500 peso federal pension to receive in addition an 886 peso state pension. Pensioners total 35,649 in 2012, which is a small number for such a large state. The federal 70+ pension scheme had 215,724 beneficiaries at the end of 2011, 266,886 in June of 2012, and a goal of 300,993 for the end of 2012. (more…)

social pensions in Tlaxcala (Mexico)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The small state of Tlaxcala, in central Mexico, has a means-tested social pension that has functioned continuously, without change, since the beginning of 2007. Beneficiaries must be at least 65 years of age, and have a minimum of five years residence in the state. The pension is 43% of the minimum salary in Tlaxcala. In 2007 the minimum salary was 47.59 pesos a day – the lowest rate of the three minimum salary zones – so the monthly pension was 43% of this amount, times 30, or 613.91 pesos (56 US dollars). The minimum salary for 2012 is 59.80 pesos a day. The corresponding 43% monthly pension is 771.42 pesos (59 US dollars). Beneficiaries cannot have any earned income, nor receive a pension or social assistance from any federal, state or municipal entity. An unusual restriction, written into the law, is that expenditure on social pensions must not exceed 25% of the total revenue of the state government.

Members of Congress from the centre-left PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática) and the centre-right PAN (Partido Acción Nacional) campaigned for increasing the size of the pension to from 43% to 50% of a minimum salary, and reducing the age of eligibility from 65 to 60 years. They were only partially successful. On October 9th, 2012, the local Congress agreed to increase the size of the pension to 47% of a minimum salary, equivalent to 843.18 pesos (65 US dollars). The age of eligibility, though, remains unchanged at 65 years.

The current governor of Tlaxcala, whose six-year term of office began on 15 January 2011, is a member of the traditional PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional). The previous governor (2005-2011) was a member of the PAN, and the one before him (199-2005) was from the PRD.

There is little information on the number of residents receiving social pensions from the state, but these were reported as approximately 10,600 in March of 2012. Beneficiaries of the expanding federal 70+ pension increased from 33,421 at the end of 2011 to 38,222 in June 2012. The goal is to increase this number to 40,484 by the end of 2012. Since the means test for a state pension is much stricter than the pension test for a federal benefit, one might expect the state programme to evolve into a pension for those aged 65 to 69 68 years. The state pension is much larger than the 500 peso federal pension, however, so prodding will be necessary to get beneficiaries to switch to the federal programme. (more…)

social pensions in Tabasco (Mexico)

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

The southeast state of Tabasco is home to Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), but is ruled by the PRI, the traditional Partido Revolucionario Institucional. AMLO’s PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática) provides very vocal opposition to the PRI, however.

Social pensions in this state have a very short history. They were introduced in January 2007 by PRI governor Andrés Rafael Granier Melo, who took office and fulfilled a promise to provide social pensions to needy seniors, disabled persons, and single mothers. The programme, with the name “Te da más” (“It gives you more”), initially provided cash benefits of 700 pesos each month to 158,607 persons, 85,483 of whom were seniors.

All the pensions were restricted to residents living in poverty, without access to other government support. The pension for seniors required, in addition, a minimum age of 65 years. In March of 2008 monthly benefits were reduced to 500 pesos (at that time, approximately 46 US dollars), with almost no change in the number of pensioners.  At the end of 2009 the governor suddenly closed the programme, ostensibly because of the economic crisis and need for austerity. The programme lasted for only three years – the first half of the government’s six-year mandate. The number of “Te da más” pensioners had fallen to 133,634 when the programme ended. It is not known how many of the pensioners were seniors.

Commentary follows on these three years of social pensions in Tabasco. (more…)

social pensions in Sonora (Mexico)

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

The northwest state of Sonora has the smallest social pension in Mexico with the exception, of course, of numerous states who have no social pension at all. The programme, known as “CreSer con Adultos Mayores”, began in April of 2010. It consists of a cash benefit of one thousand pesos (78 US dollars), not per month, but per year, paid in equal biannual instalments of 500 pesos. Beneficiaries must be residents of Sonora, be at least 65 years old, not receive benefits from another government programme, and submit a detailed “socioeconomic study”. Sufficient funds are budgeted to finance 50,500 pensioners. Those in charge of the programme decide, within this budget constraint, who should be approved, giving preference to those suffering the greatest poverty.

The federal 70+ programme had 39,042 beneficiaries in Sonora at the end of 2011, 56,668 by mid-2012, and a goal of 112,761 by the end of 2012. Sonora’s social pension is morphing into a small, means-tested benefit for seniors aged 65 to 69 years.

An earlier programme, “Vamos con Ellos”, provided even smaller benefits, in the form of subsidies for consumption of electricity, propane or firewood. It operated continuously from 2004 until it was replaced two years ago by “CreSer con Adultos Mayores”. I ignore it in this study of social pensions not because its benefits were tiny, but because the benefits were given in kind rather than cash.

More information (in Spanish) is available at Sonora’s government site. (more…)