Brazil’s job market appears to be showing signs of life. Even if recovery is still slow, the number of unemployed people has decreased consistently over the last seven months. After reaching 13.1 percent in March, the rate now stands at 11.7 percent. But for Brazilian millennials, the reality is much tougher. With little experience, these young professionals were—in many cases—thrust into the job market earlier than they should have been, as unemployment reached their parents. Between 2012 and 2017, unemployment rates among millennials have doubled.
A new study by the Institute of Applied Economics Research (Ipea) shows that things are even worse than what meets the eye. Ipea analyzed millennials in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. In Brazil, 23 percent of them are neither working nor studying, earning them the moniker “Neither-Nor.” In the rest of the world, this slice of the population goes by the acronym “NEET,” that is, a young person who is “Not in Education, Employment, or Training.” This group usually made up of underprivileged youngsters and women.
Unlike the general perception, these young people are not lazy or unproductive. About a third of them are seeking employment (especially young men), and 64 percent have to help their families to take care of their siblings (especially women). Nearly all perform domestic chores or help out in family businesses. In Brazil, only about 10 percent of millennials fit the “true” NEET definition, not performing any of the aforementioned duties. In all countries, and Brazil is no exception, teen pregnancy prevails among the Neither-Nor millennials.
The need for public policy and private action
According to Ipea researcher Joana Costa, transportation subsidies and the offer of better daycare centers from the government would help women to accommodate maternity with their professional lives. It would also be indispensable to continue with policies or student loans and access to formal college education. “Conditioned scholarship programs have traditionally been successful in Brazil,” says Ms. Costa.
Private companies could also help by taking part in internship programs. However, between 2012 and 2015, only 1.3 million young professionals were recruited by companies enlisted in a federal program offering tax benefits to those who take in less-privileged interns—the number is five times below what the country could have.
Last but certainly not least, it is imperative that the state invests more in policies to curb the rates of teen pregnancy in Brazil, which is directly linked to school evasion for women and early insertion in the job market for men.
Knowledge and abilities
The study brings several less-conventional variables, such as information about how much millennials actually know about the ins and outs of the job market, their aspirations, expectations, and cognitive and socio-emotional abilities. A staggering piece of data is that these young professionals don’t have information about how much studying more would impact their future income. That often leads to their choice for cheaper, easier schools, which will make them less prepared for a job.
In Brazil, less than half of millennials have sufficient abilities with mathematics. Only 15 percent of them speak fluent English, putting the country above only Haiti and Paraguay. In El Salvador, that rate reaches 27 percent, just above Chile and Colombia. The data shows that Brazil is simply not producing enough qualified labor. Notwithstanding, 83 percent are confident they’ll meet their professional goals in life.
Brazil is wasting its demographic boom
In Brazil, there are 33 million people between 15 and 24 years old, making up 17 percent of the population. According to Ipea researcher Enid Rocha, the country is still living a demographic boom (the term given to a period with more active people than retirees) but it won’t last for long. “This is when countries take the opportunity to invest in their youth. Otherwise, what is a demographic bonus now will haunt us in the future,” she says.
But this appears to be another case of the famous Brazilian saying: “Brazil never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”