Explaining Brazil #102: Brazil facing a job apocalypse

Brazil's large informal labor market suggests that the country's employment rates may be decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic

Official statistics have shown how severe of an effect the coronavirus is having on the global job market. In the U.S., over 3.2 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the last week of March alone — and an incredible 6.6 million this week. And, just to continue using the U.S. for perspective, three weeks prior to that, jobless claims were at a historic low, at around 200,000 filings.

In Brazil, the effects of the pandemic on the labor market remain unknown. First of all, this kind of data is published monthly around here — and the government is apparently trying to withhold this information. The Economy Ministry recently announced it has suspended the release of a monthly database of workers under formal employment, meaning it might be a while until we find out exactly how many layoffs the crisis has already caused.

But, sooner rather than later, these impacts will be felt. And they will be felt hard.

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Background reading:

  • The Brazilian Report has launched a live blog to follow the spread of Covid-19 in Brazil. It will be used to provide public-interest information on a daily basis about the developments of the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil. If you have doubts about the issue, do not hesitate to write to us at [email protected].
  • Our April 2 Daily Briefing shows that relief packages announced by the government have stalled — as the government and Congress can’t agree on how to carry out these measures.
  • Our April 1 Daily Briefing shows that, as the government delays, states jump into action in the Covid-19 fight.
  • The coronavirus has drastically upended Brazil’s 2020 municipal elections — and no one at this time can tell for sure how, and if, this vote will be able to take place.
  • Economists working under the federal government told reporter Brenno Grillo that Bolsa Família is the answer to the job crisis caused by Covid-19. But, as Euan Marshall showed early in March, the Jair Bolsonaro administration has slashed it.
  • In our March 18 Daily Briefing, economist Daniel Duque makes a case for a universal basic income policy as a palliative measure for the looming job crisis (for premium subscribers).

Explaining Brazil is made by:

  • Gustavo Ribeiro, editor in chief of The Brazilian Report. He has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets, including Veja, Época, Folha de S.Paulo, Médiapart, and Radio France Internationale.
  • Euan Marshall, editing. Euan is a journalist and translator who has lived in São Paulo, Brazil since 2011. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, his work has been published in The Telegraph, Al Jazeera, The Independent, among others.

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