The Employment Study of the Inter-Trade Union Department of
Statistics and Socio-Economic Studies (DIEESE) points to a
higher level of unemployment among women. In August of 2003,
the rate of total unemployment in the Metropolitan Region
of São Paulo, was 23.6% for women, and 16.5% for men.
Between 1995 and 1998, it is estimated that roughly 150 thousand
economically active women were incited to leave the workforce
to wholly dedicate themselves to their children. Since the
beginning of 2003, 300 thousand women have left the workforce.
Women with up to three years of schooling receive the equivalent
of 61.5% of men's income, while women with eleven years or
more of study receive 57.1% of the income of men.
Rights to Employment
and Fair Wages
to the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE),
many Brazilian women do not have access to basic rights. Less
than half of pregnant Brazilian women have access to health
care, which causes a high maternal mortality rate in our country.
Many women do not have equal working conditions in relation
to men. In addition, women suffer sexual abuse, and carry
a heavy load of domestic work. This year, we studied the Multi-Annual
Plan proposed by President Lula, which included measures to
overcome gender inequalities.
in the Work Force
numbers of Brazilian women in the workforce, in both the formal
and informal markets, remain almost the same in the last few
years. In 2001, 48.9% of women were working; in 1999 the rate
was 49%, and in 1995 it was 48.1%. In 1976, the rate of female
activity was 28.8%. The 1970s and 1980s showed a growth of
women's presence in the workforce, including married women
over 30 years old, with children. In the 1990s, even with
the economic crisis, women did not leave the workforce. We
also need to consider that, in 1992, the studies began to
include a variety of economic activities, such as women who
worked in rural areas.
rate of male working activity in 1992 was 76.6%, and in 1999
it was 73.8%. These numbers show a great deal of inequality
between men and women. This data suggests that there are 14
million more women looking for work than men.
good part of Brazilian workers are in the informal market:
34.6% of men and 40.4% of women do not have a formal job.
Of the total employed population, 53.9% of men and 54.9% of
women did not contribute to Social Security. Of men older
than 60, 20.4% do not even have a retirement pension, and
24.6% of women in this age group are in the same situation.
Only a quarter of working female maids contribute to Social
to the Employment Study of the Inter-Trade Union Department
of Statistics and Socio-Economic Studies (DIEESE), in August
of 2003, the rate of unemployment in the Metropolitan Region
of São Paulo was 23.6% for women, and 16.5% for men.
2001, the average monthly income of white men was R$874.33;
for white women it was R$583.09; for black men it was R$421.75;
and for black women it was R$296.43. The average monthly income
for families with children that had a black woman as the primary
earner, was R$162.00, with 71.3% of women and 55.1% of men
receiving up to two minimum-wage salaries as income.
Government: Changes for Women?
first months of the new government were marked by economic
crisis, high rates of unemployment, and a decrease in workers'
incomes. During his campaign, President Lula promised to double
the minimum wage within four years. In 2003, the minimum wage
increased only 2%, which raises expectations for the next
so-called Welfare Reform did not address the problems generated
during the former administration. It did not take steps towards
including people who are in the informal market in the Social
the Lula Administration has asserted that 2003 is a year of
transition, of sacrifice, and that 2004, with the new Multi-Annual
Plan, he will launch "a model of long-term development"
with the creation of new jobs and an increase in the minimum
Multi-Annual Plan (PPA) is organized into five areas: social,
economic, regional, environmental and democratic reforms.
Many women are responsible for operating social programs like
the Zero Hunger campaign and the School Grant.
the breakdown of the PPA, proposed by the Ministry of Education,
women will have greater participation in educational programs.
Today only 10.7% of children between the ages of 0 and 3 attend
preschool. The Early Childhood Education Program looks to
"not just finance the parents in their task of educating
and caring for their children, but also orient them in how
to do it." Besides appointing parents to this task, this
Program, very likely, will be run by mothers and can be a
way for them to enter the job market.
policy is similar to the French APEs (Parental Educational
Allocation), in which a minimum wage income is offered to
parents who wish to retire from the workforce. In the period
between 1995 and 1998, an estimated 150 thousand economically
active women were incited to withdraw from the workforce to
wholly dedicate themselves to the care of their children (Trat,
Josette, 2002). Since its beginning in 2003, when this "benefit"
could be accessed by mothers with a child, it is estimated
that 300 thousand women left the workforce.
important issue for women is the struggle for wage equality.
Women with up to three years of study receive the equivalent
of 61.5% of men's income, while those with 11 or more years
of study receive 57.1% the income of men. This numbers show
a great deal of discrimination against women.
by the Women's Movement
rights are increasingly present on the agenda of the Women's
Movement. On August 26, 2003, rural workers of the National
Confederation of Agricultural Workers (CONTAG) and other organizations
brought 30,000 women to Brasilia. They demanded more access
to land and water, health care, to a living wage, and policies
to prevent sexual violence.
women are mobilized to demand a minimum wage income for women
over 60 years of age who never contributed to the Social Security
system. This proposal is called the "the housewife's
Women March began a campaign to raise the monthly minimum
wage to R$730.00. In the first stages it proposes to double
the value of the minimum wage in 4 years, which means an increase
of 19% by May 1, 2004.
initiatives have a core principle of strengthening the autonomy
of women, which would include their financial independence
and a fair compensation for their work. It touches on the
profound income inequalities of our country, which include
class, gender and race. To confront them, it is necessary
to have the political will of our government, and an intense
women are ready to protest!
Miriam Nobre is an expert at SOF - the Enduring Feminist Organization
(Sempreviva Organização Feminista), a part of
the Economy and Feminism Network, and a coordinator of the
Worldwide Women's March