Abstract: Human Capital in Hostile Environments: The Process of Slow Creation and Quick Loss of Talented Individuals in the Industrial Labor Markets of Mexico and Chile, 1850-1930—The Case of the Railways

Guillermo Guajardo


This paper analyzes the human capital training strategies adopted between the 1850s and 1930s by railroad companies in Mexico and Chile. These two countries enable one to contrast the different routes taken by the same type of firm, technology, and labor force. A propos of this, we suggest that because of its complexity, capital intensity, and new work methods, railway technology had a positive impact on human capital training in the cases studied. During the period covered by this study, when railways were the main form of land transport, they combined the labor force with foreign workers and modern technology, and it was not until well into the twentieth century that a formal system of technical schools was established. Instead, informal and formal learning cycles and routes tended to be followed. That is why this paper considers three aspects: 1) the institutional and social factors that helped or hindered industrial operations, maintenance, and production training; 2) the way learning, training, and talent retention cycles were shaped and talent migrated toward other activities or was dispersed or lost; and last, 3) how training was institutionalized through what were known as "firm schools" responsible for training human capital as an internalization response to coping with shortages in the labor market.