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
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
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 email@example.com.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.