For the Welfare of Workers: The Social Security Law of 1943

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:00 AM
Salon 1 (Palmer House Hilton)
Sara Hidalgo, Columbia University
This paper examines the enactment of the Social Security Law of 1943 and the creation of the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS), which provided social security benefits as well as healthcare services for salaried workers. The 1917 Constitution, in its renowned Article 123 devoted to labor welfare, had promised the enactment of some sort of social security law. For this reason lawmakers presented the 1943 Social Security as the culmination of revolutionary struggles for social justice and labor mobilization. The Constitution, however, was extremely vague on how this system would actually function, and the proposals for Mexico’s social security scheme was in constant change during the 1920s and 1930s. Analyzing laws, Congressional debates, newspapers, presidential addresses and presidential archives, this paper argues that the actual form that social security provision took in 1943 was a response to the specific political and international context of the early 1940s. Centralizing under government control the provision of services and benefits to which workers were entitled by the Constitution, I argue that President Manuel Ávila Camacho (1940-46) attempted to use IMSS to curb an emboldened labor movement that could threaten his government’s prospect of industrial peace and political stability.
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