Mass Layoffs in Honduras Likely to Cause Increased Emigration

By Kausha Luna on October 23, 2015

Pastoral Care of Migrants (PMH are the Spanish initials), a Catholic non-governmental organization in Honduras, anticipates a spike in emigration from that country due to widespread layoffs.

Over recent weeks Honduras has experienced mass firings in both the public and the private sectors. This process started at the end of 2014 when the Honduran government announced it would lay off 7,000 civil servants starting in 2015, with the goal of reducing the government workforce by up to 30 percent. Honduras, faced with a fiscal deficit, explained the mass layoffs were about making the country more efficient. Employees of the state-owned telephone company, Hondutel, and ENEE (the power company), as well as employees of Honduran Institute for Children and Family are on the list for the government's downsizing project.

The national coordinator of PMH, Lidia Mara Silva de Souza, explained that despite the government's promise to give employees severance pay an increase in legal and illegal migration can be expected. Those who do receive a severance package will invest their money and or will go live in other countries, she said. In contrast, those who do not receive severance pay will emigrate to find better opportunities. Silva de Souza added the ''emigration will not be immediate given many will wait and other will fight for their severance package, thus, the increase [in emigration] will be visible in the second quarter of the year 2016.''

In the private sector, Grupo Continental, a conglomerate by the Rosenthal family, has also taken a hit. Earlier this month the group was accused of supporting drug trafficking and money laundering . As a result, the Continental Bank (part of the conglomerate) was liquidated and on Monday the Honduran government started firing the bank's employees. This process has put 3,000 jobs at risk, adding to the 1.5 million Hondurans already unemployed.

This spike in Honduran unemployment has significant implications for the United States. A report by the Honduran Central Bank shows that 93.3 percent of emigrants surveyed cited economic improvement as their reason for emigrating. The United States, the principal destination for Honduran migrants, cannot afford to take in more of Honduras's unemployed; as a recent report by the Center shows, in the United States the number of working-age Americans not working remains enormous.