The Meaning of Work for Elderly Grocery Baggers in Monterrey, Mexico: A Precarious Job or a Social Opportunity?

By José Mauricio Argüelles Pérez.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 7, 2014 $US5.00

The northern Mexican city of Monterrey emerged in the twentieth century as a Latin model of a postindustrial society. In Mexico, Monterrey is well-known for its economic indicators which are above the country’s averages and attractions for local and foreign investment. Nevertheless, it has many problems like any other Mexican city in terms of poverty, unemployment, and social and economic inequality. One important issue is the social problem of an aging society that in the past did not provide for sufficient ways for all people to save up a retirement pension. Those people now are compelled to apply for a job, even though they are over sixty years old. This takes place in a market economy now more based on a model of flexible work, but with a lack of employment opportunities for aging people. In this context, there has been in recent years an increasing opportunity for work as a grocery bagger [paquetero] for these groups of people at supermarkets. This is what we can call a structural perspective of the problem, but there are more aspects than this: people construct perceptions and subjectivities around issues like work, even if they are out of the labor force, such as people older than 60 years of age in Mexico. In this paper I give a perspective of the meaning of work for seniors who work as grocery baggers in some supermarkets in a locality in Monterrey. In spite of the flexible and precarious uncertain conditions of this type of work, for participants their jobs have important meanings for their entire lives; for example: keeping busy, having social relationships with others, and encouraging self-esteem. Those meanings complement the economic reasons given for working due to financial necessity. The analysis is grounded in an ethnographic method, which includes description of information from participant observation and in-depth interviews. Finally, I give an interpretative view and conclusions.

Keywords: Meaning of Work, Employment for Older People, Aging Workforce, Grocery Baggers, “Paqueteros”, Monterrey

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 3, Issue 2, May 2014, pp.7-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 7, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 360.955KB)).

José Mauricio Argüelles Pérez

Lecturer (UANL) and Graduate Student (Tecnológico de Monterrey), Department of Sociology (UANL), Research Cathedra for Social and Economic Development (Tecnológico de Monterrey), UANL and Tecnológico de Monterrey, Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico

I have worked as a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology in the College of Philosophy and Letters at Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (Monterrey, Nuevo León, México). I have a Bachelor in economics and a Master degree in social science. Currently, I’m a doctoral student at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Monterrey. I am working on a thesis about the meaning of work for the elderly in flexible and precarious employments. My interests are studies about aging and labour sociology.