largest gaps in the workforce have not been salaried workers,
but self-employed, autonomous, independent and cooperative
workers, among others. Moreover, the type of self-employed work that has really
expanded is what is traditionally called “autonomous”
work—which is characterized, in general, by poor working
conditions and income. Currently, unemployment has become a complex and very
heterogeneous phenomenon, achieving a generalized form in
practically all segments of society, including spheres with
high levels of education, experienced professionals and
workers with the highest salaries. It is thus possible to conclude that there are no longer any
strata of Brazilian society that are immune to unemployment.
Denial of the Right to Work
the 1990’s the phenomenon of mass unemployment in Brazil is
an incontestable reality.
In 2002, for example, Brazil had the fourth highest
unemployment rate in the world, behind only India, Indonesia
1986, however, Brazil was thirteenth in global unemployment.
Since the beginning of the 1990’s the unemployment
rate increased greatly, propelling Brazil into the foursome of
countries with the worst unemployment rates on the globe.
representing 3.1% of the total global workforce, Brazil has
6.6% of global unemployment. Even though Brazil has a smaller population than has China or
the United States, the number of unemployed was nonetheless
greater in Brazil during the 1990’s.
we enter the 21st century Brazil continues to belong to the
group of countries with the highest number of people out of
work in the world. Moreover,
high unemployment continues to absorb a very large proportion
of the national work force.
In large measure, the development of mass
unemployment reveals something wider about the general
restructuring of the labour market in Brazil.
It is worth pointing out, however, that for the nearly
five decades of national industrialization (1930—80)
considerable advances were made in the structure of salaried
labour, especially in registered employment.
There was an almost complete absence of open
With the restructuring of the labour market
beginning in the 1980’s, the dimensions of open unemployment
increased because of a decline in the number of salaried
positions and an increase in precarious, non-salaried labour.
The decline in salaried work constitutes a new
development in Brazil, especially when it is compared to the
evolution of labour practices throughout the entire twentieth
the decline of salaried work
as a proportion of the total work force, indicates the
strength of the substantial changes in the labour structure of
Between the abolition of slavery in the
last quarter of the 19th century and the 1980’s there was a
by and large progressive development of salaried labour in
Brazil, with the exception both of recessionary periods such
as 1929-32, 1980-83 and 1990-92, and those periods that saw
large-scale modifications in the technical aspects of
production, such as in the technological revolution in the
textile industry in the 1950’s and (perhaps) the 1990’s.
But whenever there was an expansion of production the
generation of formal unemployment overshadowed the creation of
other forms of work.
In the 1940’s to the 1970’s, for every
10 jobs, eight were salaried and, of these, seven were
for every 10 jobs created during the 1990’s, only four were
trend in the reduction of registered workers figures strongly
in the general decline of salaried work..
The number of registered, salaried workers continued to
rise throughout the 1990’s, albeit with levels of variation
that were insufficient to compensate for the loss of
non-registered, salaried work.
In 2003 for example, one out of every two workers was
salaried, while in 1980 the ratio was two of every three
proliferation of forms of work constituting the
“Economically Active Population” (EAP), particularly with
respect to occupations of low productivity and precarious work
conditions, marks out the broadest context of the current
employment crisis in Brazil.
The largest gap in the workforce has not been salaried
workers, but self-employed, autonomous, independent and
cooperative workers, among others.
It is important to note that self-employed occupations can
very often be identified as one of the new forms of modern
economic activity, especially in the case of autonomous work
for large corporations, for this arises in the most favourable
conditions of remuneration and work
(technical specialists and manual labourers with a high
level of schooling and the most professional experience). The self-employed work that has really expanded is what is
traditionally called “autonomous” work—which is
characterized, in general, by insufficient working conditions
of this, the degree of vulnerability among workers began to
rise again at the beginning of the 1990’s.
Until then, the rates of underutilized labour,
traditionally identified by unemployment and by unsalaried and
self-employed work, tended to decline.
Beyond the explicit quantity of unemployed
persons, it is important to emphasize as well the drastic
change in the composition of unemployment.
In other words, the profile of the typical unemployed
person has changed, no longer consisting, as in the recent
past, of specific segments of the workforce
such as young people, women, blacks, people without
professional qualifications, the illiterate and those with
little professional experience.
On the whole, unemployment used to be a relatively
homogeneous phenomenon that was concentrated in certain
specific segments of the workforce.
Currently, however, unemployment has become a complex and very
heterogeneous phenomenon, achieving a generalized form in
practically all segments of society, including spheres
requiring a high level of education, experienced professionals
and workers in the highest levels of remuneration.
It is thus possible to conclude that there are no
longer any strata of Brazilian society that are immune to
withstanding the general restructuring of the workforce, with
the marked presence of national unemployment, public policy
regarding labour remains unresponsive to this complex reality.
This can be observed as much in the enormous
fragmentation of programs, in poor social security, scarce
public resources, overlapping on functions, privatization,
corruption, and elevated costs.
goes without saying that a nation which privileges the right
of private property is incapable of committing itself to a
political and social economy of full employment. Because of this, the right to work in Brazil continues to be
denied over and over again, condemning millions of heads of
families to survive in conditions of extreme misery, as well
as creating the circumstances by which young people will
abandon their rightful expectations of social mobility.