Léo Ramosof the FAPESP News Agency
The quality of basic health and education in Brazil has improved significantly in the last two decades. This improvement has been reflected in the Municipal Human Development Index (MHDI), which increased from 0.493 in 1991 to 0.727 in 2010, reaching a level considered high according to the assessment of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in a study released in July 2013. The increase in the MHDI would have been larger had it not been for the indices of quality of education, which despite rising, still remained extremely low.
Indicators obtained by the Center for Metropolitan Studies (CEM) through 10 years of research reveal that although quality gains in health services have been more or less uniform for Brazilian municipalities as a whole, the disparities in education have grown worse. “The inequality in basic health is less than the inequality in basic education,” says Marta Arretche, coordinator of the CEM, one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) funded by FAPESP.
The study, which used 10 indicators to assess the performance of basic health and education in every Brazilian municipality throughout the 2000s, found that municipalities with many poor have more trouble improving student performance. “While performance of basic health is weakly associated with the percentage of poor in the municipality, the performance of the municipalities’ basic education systems have a strong negative association with the poverty rate,” she states.
The research, which compared the track record and performance of each Brazilian municipality, left some questions unanswered. There are already strong signs that the universalization model has an influence on the performance of each of the systems: while the basic health system has centralized management in the form of the National Healthcare System (SUS), the basic education system is run by each individual municipality. “No one can deny that the SUS has a very positive influence on the sector’s improved performance,” says Arretche. “And, given that universalization of elementary through high school was achieved through municipal management, the relationship between the presence of the poor and academic performance affects the public schools more strongly.”
Research into the performance of the education and health systems is part of the research portfolio of this RIDC, which was established in 2000 during the first round of the program, for the purpose of understanding the processes involved in reproducing inequalities in the cities and providing data and assistance for formulating public policies.
“The studies at the Center for Metropolitan Studies were organized along three main thematic lines: economic activities and the labor market; the State and its policies; and the sociability of its citizens,” says Eduardo Marques, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of São Paulo and CEM coordinator from 2004 – 2009.
The “economic activities and the labor market” theme includes topics such as productive and competitive restructuring, employment and unemployment, and more recently, the impact that increased schooling of the masses has had on the labor market.
Along this thematic line, one of the studies was conducted by Nadya Guimarães, full professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of São Paulo (USP) and director the National Institute of Science and Technology for Metropolitan Studies, based in the CEM, who set out to understand the intensive macroeconomic and micro-organizational restructuring that had taken place in Brazil beginning in the 1990s. “First we analyzed what was happening to the trajectories of individuals in the labor market when productive activity contracted and unemployment grew, like it did here during the first half of the 2000s,” says Guimarães.
“In partnership with the SEADE (State System of Data Analysis), we used questionnaires to conduct a household sample survey that included 55,000 people in the metropolitan area of São Paulo whose occupational trajectories were traced from the time of the Plano Real (1994) to the time of the survey (2001),” says the researcher.
After that, a sub-sample of cases were analyzed more thoroughly and monitored between 2002 and 2005 through two rounds of qualitative interviews, in order to explore how these individuals interpreted their experience in seeking opportunities in the job market.
In order to better understand the particularities of São Paulo, the researchers conducted a similar study in partnership with Japanese and French colleagues, in the metropolitan areas of Tokyo and Paris. These cities were similarly subject to important changes in the conditions governing access to jobs and the growing risk of unemployment, but differed from the Brazilian case because of the hardiness of their political protection systems – public in the case of France, and private in the case of Japan.
“We noted that in São Paulo, the trajectories were marked by extreme transitions between jobs, unemployment and inactivity, giving rise to erratic occupational paths, motivated by the overarching concern with achieving immediate survival at all costs,” notes Guimarães. “This reflected the limited nature of the policies that protected the unemployed, in terms of their capacity to include potential applicants or with regard to the benefits granted by recently implemented institutions, in the Brazilian case, such as unemployment insurance or the public system of support for job retraining, intermediation and placement,” she adds.
The study found that personal networks of sociability were the mechanisms through which individuals sought and found not only a job, but also immediate support in order to cope with unemployment or inactivity.
“In the metropolitan area of São Paulo, where 8 out of every 10 people interviewed said they were seeking work through family members, friends and acquaintances, and 7 out of every 10 said they had found their most recent job by relying on their personal networks, these informal mechanisms were the most effective way to overcome unemployment. But our data have also shown that the employment opportunities created within these social circuits was of lower quality and lasted for less time,” the researcher goes on to say.
Comparative studies provided evidence that this characteristic had appeared in the other Brazilian cities, although at varied intensity, and that it was more conspicuous where the markets were more precarious and informal. Therefore it was more effective in the Northeast (namely in Recife and Salvador) than in the Southeast and the South (particularly in Porto Alegre).
Researchers then analyzed the reconfiguration of employment relations in Brazil when the occupational opportunities were expanded in the wake of continuous economic growth during the second half of the 2000s. “By analyzing statistics from the Ministry of Labor and Employment (RAIS-Migra), we noted that when formal employment expanded in Brazil, there was a much more rapid increase in a particular kind of formally registered job: that offered by what we refer to as “job opportunity intermediaries” such as employment agencies or temporary employment services,” reports Guimarães.
“In a market characterized by the strength of personal networks of sociability, the commercial mechanisms that connected individuals who were looking for work with available jobs grew very quickly,” adds the USP researcher.
A new sample survey that included nearly 1,600 cases was conducted among workers in search of employment at agencies in the metropolitan region of São Paulo in 2004. It was found to be a younger, increasingly female, more educated workforce that was mainly in search of a first job.
Most of them found their first formally registered job through the intermediaries. But, while they had a high probability of remaining employed in the formal market, their connections were of short duration (in other words, they were subject to high job turnover) and wage gains were much smaller than those received in the form of minimum wage post-2005,” says Guimarães.
Furthermore, the researchers found that the companies devoted to job intermediation had become a powerful segment of economic activity, fundamentally integrated with those who hired their services, which were some of the most modern companies of São Paulo, as verified by using A the São Paulo Economic Activity Survey.
According to Guimarães, “More importantly, Brazil was one of the leading countries in the international scenario of job intermediation in this field of activity.” In exploring comparative international statistics for the years 2008-2010, we saw that Brazil stood out, alongside countries recognized in the world for intermediate and temporary labor such as Japan, England, Spain, the Netherlands and the United States by the number of employment agencies and intermediate workers, as well as by its share of earnings generated by the industry on an international scale,” she says. In other words, in the same wave of economic growth that saw the expansion of employment, labor relations seemed to progressively reconfigure themselves, becoming increasingly more diversified along with economic momentum.”
CEM – Center for Metropolitan Studies (No. 2013/07616-7); Grant Mechanism Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center (RIDC); Coord. Marta Arretche/USP; Investment R$1.357.627,72 and US$ 29.705,00 per year for the CEM (FAPESP).