Publication Date

September 2005


This paper discusses the influences of labor regulations on unionization rates through the comparative analysis of Argentina, Chile and Mexico, expecting to contribute to the understanding of the determinants of unionization in Latin America. These regulations, though only one of the factors determining unionization levels, have a crucial role, their influence being at least threefold: they define entitlements to and exclusions from the right to unionize, affect union recruitment strategies and, by generating incentives and disincentives, contribute to shape individual membership decisions. After discussing historical aspects of unionization in the three countries, the analysis centers successively in two periods in which the countries compared showed both similarities and contrasts relevant to the analysis of unionization trends. In the first, the comparison is between Argentina (1976-83) and Chile (1973-89), both under military regimes that had much in common, but with contrasting unionization trends. In the second, the focus is in Argentina (1991-2001) and Mexico (1984-2000), where the reforms implemented to liberalize the economy and ensuing social-economic and labor market transformations were similar, but unionization trends differed. It is argued that, in each case, the divergent behavior of unionization, in spite of the similar economic and sociopolitical contexts, may at least partly be attributed to differences in key labor institutions.


Suggested Citation
Marshall, A. (2005). Labor regulations and unionization trends: Comparative analysis of Latin American countries. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, International Programs.

Research reported in this paper was carried out while the author was Visiting Fellow at the School for Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University (Fall 2005). A preliminary version was delivered at the 2006 Meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 15-18, 2006.