Reports that the number of unemployed youths in Mexico stands at 8 million and is set to rise are bad news for security, as this group makes up the majority of combatants and victims in the country's drug war.

Excelsior published a report saying that there are currently 8 million Mexicans aged 18 to 30 who are not in work or education -- known as “ni-nis” (so labeled because they neither study or work, "ni estudian ni trabajan"). This is equivalent to more than 20 percent of the age group, and is on the rise, according to the newspaper.

InSight Crime Analysis

The high level of youth unemployment in Mexico is not only a social problem but a factor driving violence and organized crime. Ni-nis are the main prey of drug trafficking organizations, making up the majority of victims of drug-related violence, and also serve as the pool from which they draw their workforce, commonly serving as the expendable foot soldiers of gangs and cartels. Crime pays; an enforcer for a large cartel can make nearly three times as much per month as the national average, as demonstrated by the story of six female adolescent Zetas-in-training captured last year.

Many in the country have argued that the government should address the problem of youth unemployment as a matter of national security. In a country where economic opportunities are few and far between, it is argued, young people have little choice but to turn to criminal groups for income.

However, there are other factors which are just as important as youth unemployment in generating violence. Most of Mexico’s unemployed youths are believed to live in the border region, a hotspot for drug violence because of its proximity to the US market.

High youth unemployment does not always correlate with higher rates of violence. According to Diana Carbajosa Martinez of the Research Institute on Universities and Education, the two states with the highest numbers of jobless youths are Chiapas and Michoacan, where youth unemployment stands at more than 25 percent. However, neither makes the list of the top 10 most violent states in Mexico, according to recently-released data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).

Indeed, of the five states in Mexico that have established social programs specifically aimed at tackling youth unemployment (Chihuahua, Baja California, Tlaxcala, Guerrero and Hidalgo), two -- Chihuahua and Guerrero -- are the among the most violent in the country, with homicide rates of 131 and 71 murders per 10,000 respectively. This suggests that as well as providing subsidized job programs for youths other measures are necessary to rein in violence, like reinforcing law enforcement institutions, specifically the police force and court system.

Corruption is rampant among the country’s police, with more than 30,000 officers having recently failed background checks and drug tests. While the government began a process of reforming its complicated and inefficient court system in 2008, progress has been limited on this front, slowed both by a lack of funds and political will. Like combating youth unemployment, police and judicial reform will be a slow battle for Mexico.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs.