The Brazilian Dream: Getting a Job in Government

Cover of Brazilian weekly magazine Veja Becoming a civil servant has become once again the Brazilian middle class dream, according to the cover story in the latest issue of Brazil's main weekly magazine Veja. Millions of Brazilians, says the opinionated publication, will be trying their luck this year to get one of the 100,000 new positions.that will be offered by the government.

A public job in Brazil means a good salary, possibilities of promotion, medical benefits, professional prestige and most of all the certainty that the lucky servant will never be fired.

Being a civil servant had lost prestige in the 80s when chances to get good salaries and opportunities to grow were more abundant in the private sector. This has changed however. The number of civil servants among Brazilian workers has grown from 17% in the 80s to 22% today.

The United States (14%), England (20%), Argentina (21%) and Chile (10%) all have a smaller contingent of civil servants among its active working population. The advantages of working for the state in Brazil are many. While in the US and England a civil servant can be fired this won't happen in Brazil.

Brazil's 1988 Constitution establishes that all civil servants have a job for life. They can be fired only in serious cases, like insubordination or when they abandon their job. It's believed that less than 1% of civil servants lose their jobs each year.

Brazilians working for the government also are guaranteed a full salary when they retire. While in the United States the average salary for a civil servant is US$ 4.200 in Brazil is US$ 2,500. The Brazilian government spends 48% of all the money it has available paying its employees.

In 2006, according to Veja, 5 million Brazilians applied to about 300 competitive examinations throughout the country trying to land a post posts in the federal, state and municipal bureaucracies, a number 43% higher than six years ago.

With 100,000 new public jobs being offered this year it's expected that new records in the number of applicants will be broken. The magazine quotes economist Nelson Marconi, from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation commenting on the trend: "The public sector, for the first time in decades, has become more attractive than the private one. This preference is a landmark in the history of jobs in Brazil and in the labor force profile".

Data from the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) show that the Brazilian state employs now  more than 9 million citizens. As UnB's (Universidade de Brasí­lia) political scientist José Matias Pereira, puts it, "Once again the government has become the country's largest and best employer. In no other place an employee will find such good salaries together with so many benefits." 

Brazilian civil servants seem to be enjoying a new golden age as in the 60's and 70's during the military dictatorship, the so-called Brazilian miracle era, when the military-led state wanted to draw the best talent from the private sector.

While 10 years ago the typical candidate to a public post was 40 or older, nowadays most of those taking the examinations are below 30, and more than half of them are just leaving college and starting a career.

The average salary for federal civil servants has grown from 1,400 reais (US$ 730) to 4,700 reais (US$ 2,450) in the last ten years, a real increase since the inflation for the period was about 100%. With this jump, a civil servant nowadays gets 97.3% more than the private sector's average salary.

A recent study shows that public salaries between 1992 and 2005 grew 254% more than for similar jobs in the private sector. And 8% of government employees are making 8,500 reais (US$ 4,400) a month or more.

Most of the civil servants in Brazil today are chosen through competitive examination, but there are still thousands of them who benefit from a nepotism that hasn't been erased from the government. The United States has about 5,000 of such posts, France 1000 and England about 100. In Brazil, however, 25,000 positions in government are filled up by the godchildren of those in power.

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