The labor market in Brazil is caught in a low productivity trap. Activities that demand less study and offer lower salaries increase space in the total number of vacancies created.
Professions that place the country on a new technological frontier, with more qualifications and income, have even been growing, but they are still not very representative.
The trends were identified in a study by researchers linked to the FGV Ibre (Brazilian Institute of Economics of the Getulio Vargas Foundation).
The survey focuses on the period from 2012 to 2019. In this way, it intends to eliminate any transitory impacts caused by the pandemic in the labor market.
Among the vacancies that grew the most, in terms of the number of employed workers, are sellers of various products, in commercial points or on the streets of Brazilian cities.
Jobs in areas related to technological transition, such as data analysts and IT services (information technology), also advanced, but without reaching as much space in comparison with the total number of professionals in the country.
The FGV Ibre study is signed by four researchers: Janaína Feijó, Laísa Rachter de Sousa Dias, Fernando de Holanda Barbosa Filho and Fernando Veloso.
“Among the occupations that register the greatest increases are those related to the provision of relatively low-paid services, [tendência] compatible with the low productivity of the country in recent years”, highlights the survey.
The analysis is based on microdata from Pnad Contínua, a survey on the labor market released by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). PNAD contemplates both the formal and informal universe.
According to Veloso, the growth of the population employed in services with fewer qualification requirements and lower remuneration reflects, in part, the recent macroeconomic dynamics experienced by the country.
Between 2014 and 2016, Brazil embarked on a period of difficulties and went through a severe recession, whose losses were not fully recovered. Given this situation, the search for vacancies in services with lesser demands and in the informal sector, for example, was an alternative for entering or re-entering the labor market.
“The generation of jobs was closely related to more vulnerable positions from the point of view of remuneration and even social protection”, says Veloso.
“The trend of employment growth in services is a global phenomenon. It is not new in itself. The issue in Brazil is that, among the services that grow the most, are those predominantly informal and with less demand for schooling.”
The researcher mentions that, between 2012 and 2019, the country even made advances in the area of education, which usually benefits professionals in the job market. These advances, however, were insufficient for a stronger improvement in employment conditions.
According to the survey, more than 44.7 million workers had not completed high school in early 2012. The number dropped to 37 million at the end of 2019.
In absolute terms, the category classified as other sellers is the one that had the largest increase in employed persons, on average, between 2012 and 2019. There were 297,863 more people per year.
This group includes diverse professionals, such as home salespeople, telephone salespeople, gas station attendants and food service clerks.
Then come merchants and store sellers, with the second main increase, of 118,267 occupied per year.
Street vendors and market stations (80,163) –including street vendors who work with food–, hairdressers (78,548), drivers of cars, pickup trucks and motorcycles (77,464) and cooks (58,635) also appear among the ten rising occupations.
“Entry into the job market has become more difficult in recent years. Perhaps, these occupations represent an easier way to be placed on the market”, analyzes Veloso.
The highs of other vendors (16.3% per year) and street vendors and market posts (11%) are also in the top ten of the survey in percentage terms.
“Workers with a lower level of education do not have so many options for activities. They need to find some kind of income”, emphasizes researcher Janaína Feijó.
The shortage of vacancies led Victor Lima, 39, to sell ice cream and popsicles in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The decision came nearly two years ago, before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is very difficult to get a steady job, especially for those who are poor and have not had the opportunity to study”, says Lima.
Seller has incomplete elementary school. His desire is to find a job in general services, but he would not rule out moving to other sectors. What is lacking at the moment is opportunity, he says.
“We have to grab what appears.”
Working on the street was also the means of livelihood found by Linaldo Rocha, 67. He sells cookies, coffee and water in the south of Rio. The drinks are carried by the seller in a thermos box.
Rocha started working in this role about seven years ago. Before, he was a doorman at a condominium. He has also worked as a watchmaker and tire repairman.
Age, he says, has become a challenge in the search for vacancies in the job market. “That makes it difficult. We go to the firms, but they always end up asking about their age”, he says.
The FGV Ibre study also analyzes the behavior of technology-intensive job vacancies. According to the survey, occupations with these characteristics are gaining weight in the Brazilian economy, but they are still not as representative.
The demand for installers of electronic and telecommunications equipment, for example, was the third occupation that grew the most, in percentage terms, between 2012 and 2019 (13.1% per year).
Other activities related to information and communication technology, such as IT service directors and data specialists, also appear as emerging occupations, with an increase in the employed population around 10% a year.
“There is a growth in these vacancies, but they are still not as representative in total. IT involves greater qualification, it is seen as an area of professions with a future”, evaluates the researcher Fernando de Holanda Barbosa Filho.
Law student Ricardo Freitas de Araujo, 24, decided to migrate to the information technology sector. Seven months ago, he took a position in the commercial part of a company in the sector in Porto Alegre (RS).
The opportunity was opened after he was recommended by a friend, who is also a law student and followed the same path.
Araujo says he has been taking preparatory courses to work with information security. Now, he is already in the process of moving to a position he considers more technical, of a business analyst, in the same company.
The goal, he points out, is to continue studying and taking new steps in the technology sector. He plans to complete law school in a year and a half, but he doesn’t want to work in the legal field.
“I intend to improve myself in information security. I see many possibilities, more than the law. Data is the currency of the future.”
The FGV Ibre survey also points out the types of occupation that declined the most in Brazil, on average, per year, between 2012 and 2019.
In this sense, the researchers draw attention to the reduction in the number of workers classified as elementary.
This list includes elementary agricultural, fishing and forestry workers (closed 300,489 jobs), elementary mining and construction workers (-94,992) and domestic workers and cleaning the interior of buildings (-70,743).
Janaína believes that at least two factors help to explain, in part, the decline in activities.
She reports that the modernization has reduced functions associated with repetitive and operational tasks.
In addition, incipient advances in the area of education, between 2012 and 2019, may have led some of these professionals to migrate to other activities with a little more attractive income, especially within services.
Second economists, a crisis generated by the pandemic increases the challenges for the recovery of the labor market in Brazil.
“An effort is needed for the country to increase educational quality, and for it to be aimed at the job market in the long term”, says Sergio Firpo, professor of economics at Insper.
Firpo adds that, in order to advance in job creation, Brazil also needs to put into practice an agenda that encourages competition between companies.