OPINION

Opinion: Carlos Slim's Three-Day Workweeks Idea Is Out Of Touch With Mexico's Reality

Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helu, one of the world's richest men.

Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helu, one of the world's richest men.  (2007 Getty Images)

Carlos Slim needs to know Mexico better.

I’m saying this because I know, from my experience, it is easy to offer an opinion and make suggestions when you’re on top. Days go by between business meetings, training sessions and earnings forecasts. You have breakfast at luxurious restaurants; lunch and dinner are held at fancy venues. I know that lifestyle very well, and live amongst others who enjoy it.

Recently, I lived the reality of Mexico when a family emergency came up and I had to travel to San Luis Potosí. I always had taken one-day trips to Mexico and I’d stay at the best hotels, in the best areas. My perception was that people are poor because they don’t make an effort, because they don’t work enough. 

What I discovered in San Luis Potosí and in other states throughout the Mexican country is that the problem is not the amount of hours people work, it is the little money they earn.

- Carlos Marquez

Mexico is a country with limitless opportunities. With enormous wealth and natural resources, that’s why, among investors, it’s called the “Financial Tiger of Latin America.¨   

With this in mind, I arrived in San Luis Potosí to visit a relative at a hospital where doctors didn’t have medication or enough tools to treat or to do surgery. A government health institution requested the family of every patient to go fill prescriptions at the nearest pharmacy and bring them back to the hospital. A hospital in which people had to sleep on the sidewalk and share blankets to fight the cold.

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I didn’t know that Mexico existed and I decided to leave at that very moment and take time to get to know this country. That’s how I found out that in Mexico a college education doesn’t assure you’ll have a dignified lifestyle regardless of your talents. If you don’t have anybody there to open the door for you, you’re destined to live a difficult life. I also studied the life of everyday business owners. People who with support and adequate training, would’ve stopped selling on the streets — and could’ve become successful businessmen and women.

If they would’ve asked my opinion about Slim’s recent statement in Paraguay, of having workers move to a three-day week and work 11 or 12-hours days to have a better quality of life and be happier, without knowledge of what Mexico really is like, my opinion would’ve been completely different.

What I discovered in San Luis Potosí and in other states throughout the Mexican country is that the problem is not the amount of hours people work, it is the little money they earn. I suppose it is like applying a European solution to a nation such as Mexico. I assume Carlos Slim is achieving great results after implementing his own recommendations in his companies. The results must be extraordinary because his employees may be the best paid and they enjoy great benefits because they work at his companies.

Mr. Slim needs to get to know Mexico better, go out into the world that surrounds us. Executive meetings, golf should be replaced with visits to the poorest “barrios” in Mexico. Little by little, hearing people telling their stories, he’ll realize that the problem in Mexico doesn’t have to do with establishing a work schedule or having more days off, the problem is the unreasonable difference between salaries and privileges that some enjoy compared to what the majority of the people have to deal with. 

In Mexico, professors, teachers, doctors and engineers, not to mention those who aren’t college educated professionals, earn ridiculous salaries, compared to other countries. However, there’s a percentage of the Mexican population that without a college degree, or without really doing the work, make real fortunes exploiting the rest. That doesn’t happen in the United States and when it happens we investigate why.

I invite Carlos Slim to ask the teachers, doctors, engineers, laborers if they’d like to work three days a week, 11-12 hours a day, and spend the rest of their time with their family. The answer obviously would be “of course, as long as I earn enough money to support my family”. The problem has nothing to do with how much time people work; the problem is how much they earn. Mr. Slim is right about one thing: people who have money and work less are happier. But he is out of touch with reality.

Carlos Márquez is the author of "Ponte las Pilas," an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and host of "Adelante con Carlos." Contact him on @AdelanteCarlos.

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