Brazilians working odd jobs to survive amid record unemployment

Global Business

Brazil’s employment rate is refusing to go down. And the consequence is a record of unemployed people, according to a recent government survey.

CGTN followed a man who was forced to join the informal economy to survive. CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco has his story from Rio.

Aluminum cans, thrown away on Rio’s famous beaches are a nuisance to sunbathers, but a lifesaver for Sergio Amaral, who has become an icon on Rio’s beaches.

Working from sunrise to sunset in the hot sun, the 53-year-old uses a giant net that allows him to carry 20 kilos of cans. It has been his only means of survival since he lost his job three years ago.

“It’s increasing, and when you have more unemployment you have more poverty and that is clear. I collect cans, so I don’t become desperate. If there were construction jobs I’d be working. I am willing to work, and I am able to work. It would be much better than collecting cans,” Amaral said.

To sell his cans he walks more than three kilometers along busy city streets. For a full load, between three and seven days’ of work, he earns $17.00, barely enough to feed himself. And, Sergio is far from alone.

“I’ve noticed that more and more people who have skills are coming here because they lost their jobs or are trying to make some extra money to make ends meet end, and they try this as an experiment,” buyer Jorge Spanken said.

This square in downtown Rio is a snapshot of what is happening in every community. It is a gathering place where the unemployed wait for someone to offer them temporary work.

Even though government figures show that the worst recession in Brazilian history ended two years ago, economists say there hasn’t been a corresponding recovery in employment, with tens of millions still out of the formal work force.

According to the latest data, unemployment in Brazil rose to 12.4 percent or 13.1 million people. But of those with jobs, 27.9 million or 24.6 percent of the workforce is now considered underemployed, a new record. Another 4.9 million have given up looking for work completely. In short, more than 4 out of 10 employable Brazilians are struggling.

“Our economic growth in the last three years, on average, is around one percent, which is nothing, you can feel it. We need at least a four percent growth to create enough jobs in Brazil per year in a long-term space,” Getulio Vargas Foundation economist Istvan Kasznar said.

While there is agreement among analysts that strong measures are needed to put Brazil’s economy back on track, the political reality, they say, is that before things improve, many more are likely to follow in Sergio’s footsteps.