Brazil’s recession hits women harder

. Mar 08, 2018
Brazil's recession women work inequality Women's work conditions got worse after Brazil's recession
Brazil's recession women

Women’s work conditions got worse after Brazil’s recession

Men and women are both suffering the consequences of Brazil’s recession. But if both genders are losing their jobs at a similar pace, the equality doesn’t exist for those who are currently employed. Women make up the majority of workers in precarious positions, and have an income that is, on average, 24 percent lower than their male counterparts.

Aos Fatos collected data to help explain how the economic crisis has affected Brazilian women.


During the recession, there was a slight reduction in the average revenue of men and women, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). However, that has more to do with the fact that male incomes have taken a hit in recent years – especially in 2015.

At the end of 2012, women earned roughly 26 percent less than men. In 2016, that gap narrowed to 23 percent.

After 2017’s last quarter, when the economy began to show signs of life, average male income grew by 2 percent when compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, income for women remained more or less stagnant, increasing by just 0.2 percent. At the end of last year, the average salary for a woman was 1,773.88 BRL – that is, 24 percent lower than men, who earned an average of 2,346.03 BRL.

[infogram id=”7c5b5465-f575-4215-99b8-a1b327280f93″ prefix=”dAp” format=”interactive” title=”Average income: women v. men”]


Despite amounting to 52 percent of the Brazilian population over 14 years old, women are the minority in the workforce (which is the sum of both occupied and unemployed people). During the recession, more women took up jobs – but that didn’t result in the employment of more women.

In 2012, women represented 43 percent of the workforce (92 percent of those were employed). By the end of 2017, they made up 45 percent of the workforce, however the percentage of those employed dropped to 87 percent. In 2012, 94 percent of men in the workforce were employed, a number that dropped to 90 percent late in 2017.


Unemployment rates, one of the main indicators of an economic recession, remain high. The number of those out of a job spiked by 85 percent, from 6.6 million in 2012 to 12.3 million in December 2017.

Back in 2012, women made up 52.8 percent of unemployed workers. Five years later, they represented 50.7 percent. It is worth mentioning that this “parity” came to exist after several sectors dominated by men, such as construction, were hit hard by the crisis, and resulted in the laying off of thousands of workers.

[infogram id=”46f1b6e5-cacf-4f9d-a63e-97734ece1b96″ prefix=”CBL” format=”interactive” title=”Unemployment”]

Precarious jobs

Women are not only the majority of unemployed workers, but they are also the ones with the most precarious jobs. According to IBGE, the number of ‘underemployed’ people – that is, those who work under 40 hours per week but would want to work more – has spiked, especially among women, who already formed the majority of those underemployed.

In 2012, 5.32 million Brazilians were underemployed, a number that rose 22 percent to a total of 6.46 million by 2017. Over that same period, the number of women in this group of workers went up by 28 percent; for men, the growth was 15 percent.

[infogram id=”45594078-8722-45b9-844c-a745002fbe8b” prefix=”zKv” format=”interactive” title=”Underemployment”]

Ana Rita Cunha

Ana Rita Cunha is a report at Aos Fatos

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