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26 August 2020


Mexico: The situation and treatment of single older women who return to or relocate within Mexico without family support, including access to employment, housing, and social benefits; whether single older women are at a heightened risk of violence if living alone in Mexico (2017–July 2020)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

According to data from the 2018 National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (Encuesta Nacional de la Dinámica Demográfica, ENADID) presented in a press release by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estatisticas y Geografia, INEGI), 15.4 million people in Mexico are 60 years old and over (Mexico 30 Sept. 2019). The INEGI press release also reports that 1.7 million (11.04 percent) of people over 60 live alone (Mexico 30 Sept. 2019). The same source further adds that 1,048,426 (60 percent) of older people living alone are women (Mexico 30 Sept. 2019).

In a report on the situation of elderly people in Mexico, the National Women's Institute (Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, INMUJERES) indicates that, according to the National Household Income and Expenditure Survey (Encuesta Nacional de Ingresos y Gastos en los Hogares), in 2016, among 9.6 million people who are 65 and over, 41.1 percent were in a situation of poverty (Mexico Aug. 2018, 19).

For information on the situation of single women and of women who head their own households without male support, including access to employment, housing and support services, particularly in Mexico City and Mérida (Yucatán), see Response to Information Request MEX106364 of February 2020.

2. Access to Employment

According to the 2018 ENADID survey, 41.4 percent of people over 60 who are living alone are economically active; among these, 45.9 percent are women (Mexico 30 Sept. 2019). INMUJERES reports that 19.4 percent of women who are 60 and older participate in the labour market (Mexico Aug. 2018, 14). The same source also indicates that 4.6 percent of women over 80 are economically active (Mexico Aug. 2018, 14). The same source adds that low access to a pension by seniors, and especially by women, is one of the reasons explaining the economic activity of older people at an advanced age (Mexico Aug. 2018, 14). The source explains that, compared to 27 percent of men, only 10.2 percent of senior women are retired or have a pension or a widow's pension (Mexico Aug. 2018, 14). Toward Freedom (TF), a news and analysis publication established in 1952 covering world events with a "progressive perspective" (TF n.d.), reports that over 30,000 people over 60 work unpaid shifts as bag packers, where they rely on tips from clients as their only source of income, as part of a government program administered by the National Institute for Seniors (Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores, INAPAM) (TF 18 Oct. 2018). The source reports that the unpaid workers have no work contract or benefits, and they must buy their own uniform and they need to complete a full working day (TF 18 Oct. 2018). The source also explains that these workers "don't really have a lot of choice" (TF 18 Oct. 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the INEGI press release, 21.7 percent of employed older people living alone do not receive benefits, while 15.7 percent receive a bonus and 13.4 percent have paid vacations (Mexico 30 Sept. 2019). In a report on the human rights of seniors in Mexico, the National Commission for Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) explains that one of the most important challenges encountered by elderly people regarding employment is the lack of well-paid and decent employment opportunities (Mexico 19 Feb. 2019, para. 434). The same source adds that jobs occupied by older people are often poorly paid, without stability and in the informal sector (Mexico 19 Feb. 2019, para. 434). Mango Life, a Mexican insurance provider (Mango Life n.d.), specifies that 34 percent of seniors work, according to statistics from 2016, and 70 percent of them work in the informal sector, with low wages and without social benefits (Mango Life 23 July 2019). According to INMUJERES, Mexico's low pension coverage for seniors is a result of the country's social security system, which favours those who worked in the formal economy by granting them benefits, while those working in the fields, in the informal sector, and those who are underemployed or unemployed are left out (Mexico Aug. 2018, 14). Presenting data from the 2017 National Survey on Occupation and Employment (Encuesta Nacional de Ocupación y Empleo), INMUJERES reports that 18.2 percent of working senior women work less than 15 hours per week, 30.1 percent work 15–34 hours per week, 30.2 percent work 35–48 hours per week, and 16.9 percent work more than 48 hours per week (Mexico Aug. 2018, 16).

3. Access to Housing

According to an academic article on aging in Mexico published in a journal of the Gerontological Society of America, the housing assistance programs are linked to social security programs, making them "only available to employees working in the formal sector and registered by their employer in a social security institution such as the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), or the National Social Security and Services Institute of Government Employees (ISSSTE)" and the country lacks a housing policy for poor older adults (Angel, et al. 2017, 156). In its report, the CNDH explains that the governmental housing policy is [translation] "limited" to facilitate access to loans for acquiring property, instead of guaranteeing access to housing, which affects seniors (Mexico 19 Feb. 2019, para. 261). Similarly, in a paper published in the academic journal Housing Studies, the authors state that "the scope of governmental action has been focused on facilitating private sector housing provision and its subsequent acquisition by the population" (Nascimento Neto and Salinas Arreortua 7 Nov. 2019, 19). The same source indicates that the housing policy in Mexico excluded people with lower incomes and those working in the informal sector (Nascimento Neto and Salinas Arreortua 7 Nov. 2019, 15).

According to the Los Angeles Times (LA Times), in 2001 and 2012, the Mexican government ran a housing program jointly with private developers to build houses for working-class citizens (LA Times 26 Nov. 2017). Loans aimed at first-time buyers with modest incomes increased, but the houses and infrastructures built under this program are the subjects of "complaints about shoddy workmanship, long commutes and broken infrastructures" (LA Times 26 Nov. 2017). In this 2017 article, the LA Times states that the "program has devolved into a slow-moving social and financial catastrophe, inflicting daily hardships and hazards on millions in troubled developments across the country" (LA Times 26 Nov. 2017). The American socialist magazine Jacobin (Jacobin n.d.) also reports that between 2000 and 2012, the housing program provided homes for the working class, but it "soon became, in practice, a way to shovel money from the federal housing authority Infonavit into less-than-scrupulous private construction companies" (Jacobin 27 Feb. 2020). The LA Times article gives the example of a 66-year-old woman who, after having raised her children in a "shack with dirt floors and a roof made of palm fronds," bought a $20,000 house with a government-backed loan under the housing program; however, her new house's roof leaked, and there were water and electricity problems in her neighborhood (LA Times 26 Nov. 2017). Sources have reported instances of homes built with the help of such loans being abandoned by their homeowners because they lacked basic services (Diario de Querétaro 9 Mar. 2019; NVI 7 Sept. 2019), such as running water (NVI 7 Sept. 2019).

The Federal Consumer Protection Agency (Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor) indicates that, according to the National Statistical Directory of Economic Units (Directorio Estadístico Nacional de Unidades Económicas, DENUE) of the INEGI, there are 819 nursing homes and other residences for elderly people in the country, 85 percent of them belonging to the private sector and 15 percent to the public sector (Mexico 16 Aug. 2018). The source states that 64 percent of the private residences are in nine states (Jalisco, Ciudad de México, Nuevo León, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, Sonora and Yucatán), although all Mexican states have some type of residences for elderly people (Mexico 16 Aug. 2018). The same source provides the example of six private establishments, three in the Chihuahua state and three in Mexico City, where the monthly rent ranges from 2,500 pesos (MXN) [C$152] to 20,068 MXN [C$1,213] for the [translation] "basic service" (Mexico 16 Aug. 2018). TF indicates that nursing homes "are rare and cost 15–35,000 MEX [C$906-C$2,115] a month – the equivalent of a doctor's full-time wage" (TF 18 Oct. 2018). On its website, INAPAM indicates that it operates six nursing homes (four in Mexico City, one in Guanajuato and one in Oaxaca) (Mexico 12 Mar. 2020). There is no fee to be admitted to the nursing home, and a monthly contribution is determined according to the person's socioeconomic situation (Mexico 12 Mar. 2020).

4. Access to Benefits and Other Income Sources

Information on social benefits and other income sources for older single women could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. However, the following information may be of interest.

The Secretariat of Welfare (Secretaría de Bienestar) of Mexico indicates on its website that through the Program for the Welfare of Seniors (Programa para el Bienestar de las Personas Adultas Mayores), the government provides financial support for people over 68, or over 65 if living in indigenous communities (Mexico 11 Feb. 2019). According to the Secretariat of Welfare's website, those aged between 65 and 67 already receiving governmental support for seniors will continue to receive it, the age requisite being applicable for new beneficiaries only (Mexico 11 Feb. 2019). In 2020, eligible seniors received 1,310 MXN monthly, paid every two months (CIEP 16 June 2020). That support amounted to 1,275 MXN [C$77] in 2019 (Mexico 11 Feb. 2019) and 580 MXN [C$35] in 2017 (Mexico Aug. 2018, 17). To be able to receive the benefits, a person must provide the following:

  • Proof of residence in an indigenous municipality for the eligible persons;
  • Valid identification document, such as a voter card;
  • Unique Population Register Key (Clave Única de Registro de Población, CURP); and
  • For people between 65 and 67 years old registered in the Register of Beneficiaries 2018 from the Pension Program for Seniors, it is only necessary to appear as active in the registry (Mexico 11 Feb. 2019).

Sources report that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, payments of the governmental support for seniors were provided in a lump sum covering four months (July, August, September and October), instead of the habitual two months (Milenio 2 July 2020; Infobae 2 July 2020).

The report on elderly persons by INMUJERES indicates that in December 2017, the Pension Program for Seniors was benefiting 5.1 million people, of which 60.3 percent were women (Mexico Aug. 2018, 19). At the time, the program provided monthly financial support to people over 65 years old, who did not have any income or income lesser than 1,092 MXN [C$66] (Mexico Aug. 2018).

According to its website, the Chihuahua state continues to provide financial support for people between 65 and 67 years old (Chihuahua 22 Mar. 2019). The source indicates that people who are 68 and over will be receiving financial support through the federal government's program (Chihuahua 22 Mar. 2019). On its information website, Jalisco state indicates that persons over 65 years old without a pension can receive monthly financial support of 971.40 pesos [C$58] (Jalisco n.d.). In the Veracruz state, Law No. 223 (Ley Número 223) provides that people over 70 can receive a monthly financial support equivalent to half of the minimum wage in the city of Xalapa; this is provided to people over 70 who have resided in the state for at least 20 years, if they do not receive any other pensions (Veracruz 2005, Art. 1, 2). Information on other social benefits at the state level could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to Canitas, a Mexican web portal aimed at the elderly (Canitas n.d.a), the Mexican federal government provides on a monthly basis basic pantry products to people over 60, through the National System for Integral Family Development (Sistema Nacional para el Desarollo Integral de la Familia, DIF) of each state (Canitas n.d.b). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Regarding sources of income, the INMUJERES report on seniors indicates that 52.8 percent of senior women and 49.4 percent of senior men receive money from private sources (private pension, donations, remittances, etc.), 55.4 percent of senior women and 36 percent of senior men receive money from social programs, and 29.2 percent of women and 54.2 percent of men receive money from their work or business (Mexico Aug. 2018, 18).

The INEGI press release notes that [translation] "few" older people living alone receive monetary support from family or friends living in Mexico (16.4 percent) or abroad (6.5 percent) (Mexico 30 Sept. 2019).

According to a research note by the Economic and Budgetary Research Center (Centro de Investigación Económica y Presupuestaria, CIEP), a non-partisan and not-for-profit research centre (CIEP n.d.), during the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors are at risk of seeing their economic situation deteriorate as 43 percent of them hold jobs in sectors with a higher risk of repercussions on production, which means that 753,000 seniors are at risk of losing their job and the income associated with it due to COVID-19 (CIEP 16 June 2020). The same source adds that the Pension Program for Seniors does not cover all the basic needs of older people, especially those living in an urban setting, as the amount the government provided for the months of March, April, May and June only covers their food and non-food expenses for the first two months, and is insufficient to fully cover the following two months (CIEP 16 June 2020).

5. Returnees to Mexico

According to a study by the Network for the Study of Inequalities of the Colegio de México (Red de Estudios sobre Desigualdades de El Colegio de México), the "majority" of returning migrants participate in the labour markets as employees and that precarious working conditions are "more common" when they return to "localities with greater social disadvantages" (Colegio de México 2018, 74). The same source indicates that when returnee women participate in the labour market, they are "more likely" to find better working conditions than men, such as having access to bonuses or to medical benefits (Colegio de México 2018, 86). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Information on access to housing and social benefits by older single women returning to Mexico from abroad could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

6. Violence Against Older Women

Information on violence against single older women could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources report that older women in Mexico are among the groups most vulnerable to violence, because of both their gender and their age (El Economista 16 Mar. 2020; Mexico 19 Sept. 2019). El Economista, a business and economics Mexican newspaper, points out that the exact number of violent acts against older women is unknown (El Economista 16 Mar. 2020). However, according to data from the project Mapa de Feminicido [1], between January 2019 and March 2020, 158 women over 60 were victims of femicide (El Economista 16 Mar. 2020). Data presented by the Mexican Senate indicates that a third of older women are victims of physical or psychological violence (Mexico 19 Sept. 2019). The source states that among 1,800 complaints of violence, 36 percent were related to familial assaults, 25 percent for serious crimes, 23 percent for threats and 1 percent for sexual violence (Mexico 19 Sept. 2019). El Economista also reports that, according to the director of the National Shelters Network (Red Nacional de Refugios), 66 percent of older women admitted to a shelter were victims of their children, while 33 percent were victims of their partner (El Economista 16 Mar. 2020). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


[1] Mapa del Feminicidio is a project by María Salguero, a geophysicist and specialist in crime against women, that aims to show the seriousness of feminicide in Mexico; the data comes from media reports and from official governmental records (América Digital 9 Mar. 2020).


América Digital. 9 March 2020. "El mapa interactivo que muestra la gravedad de los feminicidios en México." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Angel, Jacqueline L., William Vega and Mariana López-Ortega. 2017. "Aging in Mexico: Population Trends and Emerging Issues." The Gerontologist. Vol. 57, No. 2. [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Canitas. N.d.a. "Quiénes somos." [Accessed 15 July 2020]

Canitas. N.d.b. "Despensas para adultos mayores." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Centro de Investigación Económica y Presupuestaria (CIEP). 16 June 2020. "Adultos mayores y COVID-19: Vulnerabilidad económica ante la crisis sanitaria." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Centro de Investigación Económica y Presupuestaria (CIEP). N.d. "Democratizando las finanzas públicas." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Chihuahua. 22 March 2019. Secretaría de Desarollo Social. "Personas mayores de 65 a 67 años seguirán recibiendo pensión de Gobierno del Estado." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Diario de Querétaro. 9 March 2019. Laura Banda Campos. "Homex debe atender Hacienda Santa Rosa, ultimátum de Infonavit." [Accessed 30 July 2020]

El Colegio de México. 2018. Red de Estudios sobre Desigualdades. "Inequalities in Mexico 2018." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

El Economista. 16 March 2020. Marisol Velázquez. "Alertan por feminicidios de mujeres mayores de 60 años." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Infobae. 2 July 2020. "López Obrador confirmó que inició el reparto de pensión de 4 meses a adultos mayores." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Jacobin. 27 February 2020. Kurt Hackbarth. "Where Are We Supposed to Live?" [Accessed 29 July 2020]

Jacobin. N.d. "About." [Accessed 29 July 2020]

Jalisco. N.d. "Atención a los Adultos Mayores." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Los Angeles Times (LA Times). 26 November 2017. Richard Marosi. "Mexico's Housing Debacle: A Failed Vision." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mango Life. 23 July 2019. "8 datos para entender como viven las adultas majores en México." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mango Life. N.d. "¿Quiénes somos?" [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mexico. 12 March 2020. Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores (INAPAM). "Albergues y Residencias de día INAPAM." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mexico. 30 September 2019. Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Geografía (INEGI). "Estadísticas a propósito del Día internacional de las personas de edad (1° de Octubre). Datos nacionales." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mexico. 19 September 2019. Senado de la República. "En México, una de cada tres mujeres adultas mayores sufre agresiones físicas y psicológicas." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mexico. 19 February 2019. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH). Informe especial sobre la situación de los derechos humanos de las personas mayores en México. [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mexico. 11 February 2019. Secretaría de Bienestar. "Programa para el Bienestar de las Personas Adultas Mayores." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mexico. 16 August 2018. Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor. "Asilos. Una alternativa para el cuidado y atención de los adultos mayores." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Mexico. August 2018. Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres (INMUJERES). Situación de las personas adultas mayores en México. [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Milenio. 2 July 2020. "Pago adelantado de pensiones a adultos mayores inició ayer." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Nascimento Neto, Paulo and Luis Salinas Arreortua. 7 November 2019. "Financialization of Housing Policies in Latin America: A Comparative Perspective of Brazil and Mexico." Housing Studies. [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca (NVI). 7 September 2019. Ana Lilia Pacheco Bautista. "Ilusión rota: casas deterioradas en Ciudad Yagul." [Accessed 29 July 2020]

Toward Freedom (TF). 18 October 2018. Tamara Pearson. "'We Feel Abandoned and Disposable:' How Thousands of Mexico's Seniors Are Exploited in Unpaid Jobs." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Toward Freedom (TF). N.d. "About." [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Veracruz. 2005 (amended 2014). Ley Número 23 que Reconoce el Derecho de las Personas Físicas, Mayores de Setenta Años de Edad, que no Tengan Ingreso Alguno y sin la Protección de los Sistemas de Seguridad Social del Estado o de la Federación, a Recibir una Pensión Alimenticia del Gobierno del Estado de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave. [Accessed 16 July 2020]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Mexico – Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; ecoi.net; EU – European Asylum Support Office; Factiva; Human Rights Watch; UN – Refworld, UN Women.