Mexico’s Big Plans

A project to decongest Mexico City by moving government agencies to smaller cities has provoked mixed reactions – not least from workers facing relocation.
A project to decongest Mexico City by moving government agencies to smaller cities has provoked mixed reactions – not least from workers facing relocation.

Jacinta Morales came to Mexico City more than 20 years ago, following promises of education and employment, like millions of others. After getting a degree, she found stable work as a public servant, moving between different government agencies.

Though she has always worked on temporary contracts, the wide availability of civil service jobs in Mexico City offered her the financial stability to buy an apartment and start a family. “I’m a young, productive person and I thought I would have more opportunities here,” she says. “But now I’m feeling uncertainty in my career, which is something I never expected.”

Morales (not her real name) is worried her life could be derailed by an ambitious plan by the president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Over the next six years, he wants to move the headquarters of up to 31 government agencies out of Mexico City to spread civil service job opportunities to smaller cities.

With 700,000 government employees in the capital, many with families, the plan could lead to an exodus of 2.7 million people from the metropolitan area of Mexico City. But that is a liberal estimate, as it is unlikely that every employee will be able to follow their jobs.

For Morales, who has a child in school and whose husband works in Mexico City, relocating to the northern city of San Luis Potosí – where her department is expected to move – is out of the question. “Moving to a new place would mean exchanging the whole structure I’ve built here for complete uncertainty,” she says. “But I don’t think I could find a job here either – there are going to be a lot of people like me unemployed and looking for work.”

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