Brazilian women who gave up looking for a job for lack of hope of getting a job totaled 3.1 million in the second quarter of 2021, slightly higher than the 3.06 million registered between April and June 2020 and a record for this period of the year since , at least, 2012.
Among men, the total number of discouraged – the name given to those who would like to work, but gave up, at least temporarily – dropped to 2.5 million, a drop of 5%, on the same basis of comparison.
The numbers were raised by sheet in the microdata of the PNAD (National Household Sample Survey) Continuous, of the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics).
The divergence in the discouragement indicator also appears in the unemployment level.
Although both the unemployment rate for men and women began to slowly decline, in the case of women in the second quarter of this year, it was still 2.2 percentage points above the level of the same period in 2020. As for the workforce men, the level of unemployment was 0.3 percentage point lower, on the same basis of comparison.
An unprecedented study by the Credit Suisse bank warns of trends such as those registered in Brazil.
The three authors of the research say that the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on female employment in some emerging countries, such as Latin America, will be more lasting than in developed nations.
According to Solange Srour, chief economist at Credit Suisse in Brazil, this means that the widening of inequality between men and women in labor markets such as Brazil’s can continue for a long time, if specific public policies are not adopted quickly.
“The pandemic was a shock that increased existing inequalities in the labor market and, now, there is a risk that this increase will last, especially for informal and less educated workers”, says the economist, who is a columnist for the sheet.
The economic crisis caused by Covid-19 interrupted a movement to reduce the multiple differences that separate men and women in the world of work in many countries in recent decades.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a survey that became a reference for further studies –including the work of Credit Suisse– warned that the current recession would have effects on the male and female workforce very different from those caused by previous crises.
The social isolation imposed by the high risk of contagion by the virus, above all, slowed down the level of activity in the service sector, which employs many more women than men.
Other periods of sharp fall in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), such as the 2008 crisis, were marked by greater retraction in segments such as industry, where male labor predominates.
In addition, women are primarily responsible for working at home and caring for their children, activities that started to demand much more hours of dedication due to the pandemic.
The prediction made last year by economists Titan Alon, Matthias Doepke, Jane Olmstead-Rumsey and Michèle Tertilt has come true in many countries, regardless of their income level.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the rate of jobs destroyed globally during the pandemic was, respectively, 4.2% for women and 3% for men.
However, this trend varied both in magnitude and in duration, being, in both cases, more severe for workers from emerging countries, especially those in Latin America, as shown in the study by Credit Suisse, of which Srour is one of the authors. .
“Women from countries with a very large informal market suffered a double shock”, says the economist.
Even though they have received some income transfer –such as Brazilian emergency aid–, workers without a formal bond have not benefited from the employment protection programs adopted by several governments.
The problem is that, in nations such as Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Brazil, a vast portion of jobs is informal and performed, above all, by women.
In the Brazilian case, 47% of the female workforce worked without a formal contract in 2019, against 43% of the male workforce, according to Credit Suisse.
“Now there has been a significant drop out of these informal women,” says Srour.
As the data show, many female workers are now unemployed or have given up looking for a job.
Srour explains that the return of these women to the labor market tends to be much slower than in rich countries, where the recovery of female employment has already taken place.
“As developed economies emerge from isolation and the labor market recovers, employment and the rate of female participation in the labor market are strongly recovering”, highlights an excerpt of the survey.
As Alon, Doepke, Rumsey and Tertilt indicated in their study last year, Credit Suisse points out that, in the medium term, the adaptations that companies adopted as an emergency in the pandemic can benefit women.
This tends to occur for the same reason that disproportionately harmed them in the crisis, that is, because they carry out the greatest load of housework.
Although the pandemic has accelerated the cultural change of a gradual increase in the division of tasks with the home and children, this process takes time.
While women remain with the largest share of tasks, greater flexibility in work contracts –in terms of working hours and the possibility of remote work– tends to facilitate their insertion into the world of work.
But this benefit will also be unevenly distributed across countries, with the greatest positive impact on developed nations as well as within them, with greater gains for more educated workers.
With an average less qualified workforce, great inequality in the labor market and greater informality, countries like Brazil will have greater difficulty in ensuring that positive changes are distributed more equally.
“Many skilled workers are already benefiting from greater flexibility. But the informal ones, who are also the least educated, will not benefit, because they have less access to technology and do not do remote work”, says Srour.
As women make up a larger share of this group, they tend to be less favored by ongoing changes than men.
To change this scenario, the economist says that policies are needed such as the expansion of the supply of day care centers, greater balance between the time of maternity and paternity leave and measures to facilitate the formalization of the workforce.
“It would be very positive if Brazil came out of the pandemic by redesigning its policies to ensure greater inclusion of women in the formal labor market,” says the economist.