Brazil’s Social Welfare Approach: Improving Job Outcomes for the Youth by Delaying Entrance Into Workforce

30 September 2014

Young people in Brazil enter the workforce too early, hindering their ability to gain the education and employable skills that deliver good job outcomes. The Brazilian government has implemented a broad set of social welfare schemes aimed at giving families financial relief, enabling youth to stay in school longer and delay their entry into the labor force.

This report was featured as a chapter in ‘Overcoming the Youth Employment Crisis : Strategies from Around the Globe‘, a joint report co-authored by the global partners of JustJobs Network.

Brazil is the only one of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries where inequality in the late 2000s was lower than it was in the 1990s. Moreover, the last monthly employment report, released in March 2014, registered an unemployment rate of only 5 percent, generally considered full employment.2 These accomplishments result from Brazil’s sustained economic growth, focus on job creation, and support for social institutions such as education and health care.

Nevertheless, Brazil is no exception to the rule that youth struggle far more than other age groups in their search for high-quality employment. The youth unemployment rate is twice the national average and three times the rate of unemployment among other age groups. Almost 60 percent of youth work in the informal sector. The popular protest movement in 2013 revealed the frustration felt by many of the country’s young people.

This report focuses on one of the most significant challenges Brazil faces in its effort to improve employment outcomes for young people: their early entry into the workforce. Youth in Brazil are often forced to leave school early, beginning work before they have completed secondary or tertiary education and gained employable skills. This limits their ability to find a formal sector job and achieve upward mobility.

The first section describes the problems associated with Brazilian youth starting to work at an early age – often at the expense of their education – and it traces the social policies that are starting to effectively reverse this trend over the last decade. The subsequent section provides an overview of Brazil’s social protection schemes and identifies the relationship between these programs and young people’s ability to delay their entry into the workforce.
This report finds that Brazil’s diverse basket of social welfare schemes is successfully enabling young people to stay in school and vocational training programs longer, ultimately improving their employment outcomes.