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Ever So Slowly Brazilian Women Are Catching Up to Their Male Peers

Brazilian women Neither Giselle, nor destitute homeless. A new portrait of Brazilian women emerges from a series of studies released in the last few days. She studies and works hard, both at home and professionally, earns less than her male counterparts and has an increasing importance in the country’s economy.

According to Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (Ipea), a federal think-tank, the International Labor Organization and Serasa Experian consultants, Brazilian women:

Study more – 56.8% of 15 to 17-year-old girls were in school in 2008 (at the grades expected for their age), while only 44.4% of boys were studying. A similar proportion can be observed among young adults, according to Ipea: 15.7% of women and 11.8% men between 18 e 24 were in college two years ago.

Do most of the housework – Really, no surprise here. According to Ipea, women dedicate, in average, 23.9 weekly hours to cooking and cleaning their own houses, while men spend 9.7 hours on those chores.

A high percentage has bad jobs – In 2008, 42.1% of working women are paid either low or no salaries, or have informal jobs (no vacations, no job stability, no paid retirement). In contrast, only 26.2% of men work under those conditions. In fact, these numbers hide some good news. Things are getting a little better. In 1998, 48.3% of women and 31.2% of men had jobs this insecure.

Earn less than men  – Again, no surprises. In 2008, the average woman’s salary was R$ 701 (today, around 397 dollars) while men would make R$ 1070 (606 dollars). This means women earn only  65.5% of men’s incomes, even when they have the same level of education. Ipea associates this difference to three elements: women work fewer hours (of course, not counting housework), they have to take the worst jobs and face barriers to their professional growth in many work environments.

Are the main source of income of one third of Brazilian families – According to the ILO, this is a growing trend. Also, 5.9% of the mothers raise their kids alone.

House keeping, cooking and babysitting is still the many feminine occupation – still quoting the ILO, 15.8% of Brazilian women work in someone’s house.

Are the majority of the upper classes – according to Serasa Experian, 4.9 million women and 4.7 million men belong to the so-called A and B classes, that includes the richest 7.12% of the population.

Represent only 10% of politicians – Even if two women are candidates in the Presidential campaign (Dilma Rousseff and Marina Silva), their gender is very misrepresented in Brazilian Politics. Congress has 513 representatives, but only 45 congresswomen. The situation is slightly better in the Senate – 10 women and 71 men.

Most specialists quoted by the Brazilian press on these numbers say the cup is (very moderately) fuller.

Brazilian born, French citizen, married to an American, Regina Scharf is the ultimate globetrotter. She graduated in Biology and Journalism from USP (Universidade de São Paulo) and has worked for Folha de S. Paulo, Gazeta Mercantil and Veja magazine as well as Radio France Internationale. Since 2004 she has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the US. She authored or co-authored several books in Portuguese on environmental issues and was honored by the 2002 Reuters-IUCN Press award for Latin America and by the 2004 Prêmio Ethos. You can read more by her at Deep Brazil – www.deepbrazil.com.

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