Brazil’s economic recovery depends on women

. Dec 13, 2017
Gender Wage Gap Brazil economic recovery depends on women Women are pivotal for Brazil's economic recovery
Gender Wage Gap Brazil economic recovery depends on women

Women are pivotal for Brazil’s economic recovery

Women were hit harder by job losses during Brazil’s recession, according to new research, and female employment has yet to return to growth despite the first tentative signs of economic recovery for the country as a whole. Additionally, gaps in both public policy and workplace labor policies mean that some of the employment gains made in the past several decades are being lost. But without the return of women across the workforce, researchers warn that Brazil’s recovery could be even slower and its future could be bleak.

From 1950 to 2010, women’s participation in Brazil’s labor force grew from 13.6 to 48.9 percent. If this growth pattern had continued, the formal and informal employment rate of women would have hit 50 percent by January 2016. But with the first signs of Brazil’s economic woes appearing in late 2012 and snowballing into recession by 2014, women’s jobs were the first to go. By December 2014, the rate of the female population in employment had fallen to 45.9 percent – just 11.1 million women.

</p> <p>This continual downward trajectory is cause for concern, according to José Eustáquio Diniz Alves, a professor at the National School for Statistical Sciences. Despite Brazil having technically left recession, Alves says that women’s employment – unlike men’s – has yet to pick up again. “Sectors which have seen growth this year to pull Brazil out of recession are not sectors which are typically big employers of women: agribusiness, minerals, petrol, iron,” he told The Brazilian Report.</p> <p>Eleutéria Amora da Silva, founder and coordinator of Rio de Janeiro NGO Camtra (House of the Working Class Woman), told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> that she has seen first-hand the impact of economic instability and unemployment faced by women due to the recession. “I have noticed a lot more women in a lot more informal positions [since 2014],” she said, describing many women’s working situations as ones “without any protection” from job instability.</p> <h3>Maternity leave</h3> <p>Women leaving positions of employment after having a child is also a factor, according to a study from Fundação Getulio Vargas’s business and finance school. While women in Brazil are guaranteed 120 days of <a href="">maternity leave</a>, new fathers are permitted just five to twenty days. Approximately 65 percent of women aged between 25 and 44 years of age were employed, according to PNAD data, but this drops to 41 percent among women of the same age with a one-year-old child, with many women having left their jobs within the first year.</p> <p>Researcher Camila Machado, one of the authors of the FGV study, asserted that it was unclear whether women were resigning or being dismissed in any of the cases. However, she clarified, if Brazil wants to retain its female workforce, elements of public and workplace policy must change, as the current blend is proving to be inefficient. Meanwhile, a separate FGV study found that just 39 percent of women’s performance scores remained stable after giving birth – implying that cultural norms may also play a role.</p> <p>Workplace policy does hold a share of the blame: FGV found that only 10 percent of companies have goals to decrease their <a href="">gender wage gaps</a>, while just 19 percent have objectives to increase the presence of women in senior positions. But, as researcher Machado points out, those hurt most severely by the recession were from the working class. Women without a full primary school education had a 51 percent chance of leaving their jobs within a year after giving birth, compared to 35 percent for those with above-average schooling.</p> <p>Machado points out that lower levels of education often correlates with lower wages, speculating that “a possible cause” is that lower-earning women “do not have monetary conditions to delegate the care of a new-born to a third party”.</p> <p>Alves believes that it is essential to encourage the return of working-class women to Brazil’s workforce. If this doesn’t happen before 2030, he warns, the rate of formal and informal employment will shrink and the country will risk facing grave economic problems. “The aging of the Brazilian population will be very quick, and the number of those at working age will decrease very quickly,” he says.</p> <p>But Alves’s biggest concern is what he describes as the potential “disempowerment” of women through a lack of sustained employment opportunities. If women cannot find returns on the investments they make into higher education, it is possible that levels of demand among women will decrease, according to the researcher. “Education is an important thing for women’s empowerment. If women are able to reach higher levels of education, but not able to find opportunities in the job market, it’s like throwing away human capital,” he says. “Autonomy depends on having income.”</p> <p>[infogram id=&#8221;81400f13-2ea5-44c6-ae08-ffc73195dbcf&#8221; prefix=&#8221;8UB&#8221; format=&#8221;interactive&#8221; title=&#8221;Women in position of power&#8221;]

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Ciara Long

Based in Rio de Janeiro, Ciara focuses on covering human rights, culture, and politics.

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