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Brazzil - Minorities - May 2004

Jobs in Brazil: Exclusion Is the Norm

According to a new IBOPE study, 74 percent of the companies
in Brazil have no blacks among their corps of directors. In 58
percent of the 500 largest firms, women do not figure among the
holders of the highest executive positions. And of the 6,016 women
who exercise managerial functions, only 372 are black.

Alana Gandra


Picture The 500 largest companies in Brazil say that they are concerned about eliminating inequalities in labor relations. However, according to a study sponsored by the Ethos Institute and released on May 27 at the Federation of Industries of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Firjan), many of these companies obstruct racial and social diversity by adopting a culture of exclusion.

The study, "Social, Racial, and Gender Profile of the 500 Largest Companies in Brazil and their Affirmative Actions," prepared by the IBOPE (Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics) at the request of the Ethos Institute, reveals that women, although they have made significant advances on the labor market, occupy only 9 percent of the executive posts in these companies. Women hold 18 percent of the managerial positions and are foremen and section heads in 28 percent of the cases.

For the president of the Firjan's Business Social Responsibility Council, Luiz Chor, these are worrisome data. He recalled, however, that the Ethos Institute study gives an indication of the firms' concern over social responsibility, which is a positive sign.

In racial terms, the study shows that 74 percent of the firms in Brazil have no blacks among their corps of directors. In 58 percent of the 500 largest firms, women do not figure among the holders of the highest executive positions. Of the 6,016 women who exercise managerial functions, only 372 are black, and there are only 3 blacks among the 339 female executives in these large companies.

According to Professor Hélio Santos, of the University of São Marcos, in São Paulo, the study demonstrates that "the companies do not favor female or black talents. A culture of exclusion exists." Black females are singled out as those who are least valued on the job market.

In terms of salary, the document indicates that the average monthly income of black workers is 50 percent that of their white counterparts, although 40 percent of the firms that were surveyed have policies to raise the participation of representatives of racial minorities and bearers of disabilities in the job market.

Earlier this year, the special secretary for Racial Equality (Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial), Matilde Ribeiro, said that unfortunately cases of racial discrimination are a daily occurrence in Brazil.

"They are nuanced and shadowy affairs that get excused because people pretend they are something else," she explained. Ribeiro cited two recent cases: a group of Blacks were refused accommodations in Brasilia and, in São Paulo, a Black dentist was killed by police who thought he was a thief.

Ribeiro declared that much remains to be done, but that the existence of the Racial Equality secretariat was a step forward in strengthening affirmative actions in the never ending fight for true equality.

Since March, 15 percent of the resources in the government's Workers Assistance Fund (FAT) is being set aside to encourage youngsters, blacks, and women to enter the job market.

The resources should be made available to central unions and offices of the National Employment System (Sine), which will place priority on young people over 16 who are looking for their first job, individuals over 40 with primary school or less, women who have not attended university, and the black population. The resources will amount to US$ 20 million and benefit around 150 thousand people.

55 Million Excluded

Data presented earlier this year by the International Labor Organization (ILO), in the 2003 Labor Panorama, show that over 55 million Brazilians, that is, the majority of the economically active population, face problems of social exclusion.

According to the study, blacks and women have difficulties finding places in the job market and obtaining adequate conditions of remuneration and social protection, when compared with white males. 55 percent of Brazilian women participate in the job market, above the 45 percent average for Latin America.

The unemployment rate varied between 6 percent and 9 percent between 1992 and 2001 for all age brackets and educational levels. However, the unemployment rate for women and blacks was 50 percent greater than for white males in 1992 and 58 percent greater in 2001.

The study also reveals differences in the distribution of men and women and white and blacks in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. According to the research, the criteria of selection taken into account in job contracts are racial, ethnic, and gender characteristics, instead of level of schooling or talent. This discrimination drives the excluded population into the informal market.

In 2001, while the percentage of men engaged in the informal sector corresponded to 51 percent, among women the level was 7.2 percent greater. The data also reveal that one in every three Brazilian women is not paid or performs domestic tasks. In the case of domestic workers, only one in every four has signed working papers.

Among blacks, the unemployment rate reached 10.6 percent in 2001, exceeding that of whites by 2.5 percent. In the case of black women, 13.8 percent were unemployed in 2001. Among black women, 23.9 percent work in domestic service, and 41.9 percent exercise activities without remuneration.

With regard to those in the population with higher education, the labor market tends to place greater value on men than on women, with the exception of "typically female" jobs, such as elementary school teachers and nurses.

The ILO data were obtained from the IBGE's National Residential Sample Survey (PNAD).

Alana Gandra works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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