Women, elections and the future of Brazil – work and employment

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The commitment to greater appreciation and recognition of women's work needs to be viscerally tied to the redistributive agenda

Brazilian women contribute enormously to the production of national wealth, although the recognition and material retribution for this work are lower than those received by men.

Responsible for reproductive work, they dedicate more time to domestic activities and care, which makes their insertion in the labor market more precarious. They are more present in unregistered, part-time jobs and more concentrated in activities conceived as an extension of domestic and care work.

Society treats teaching, caring, cleaning, cooking as natural attributes of being a woman – something done out of love, not work. No wonder these activities have lower social status and, if paid, lower remuneration.

A competitive labor market, with unregulated working hours that exceed 40 hours a week, leads women and men to delegate to a majority of black women the work that makes it possible, after all, for us to remain alive. They are the ones who keep our homes and workspaces clean, children and the elderly cared for and food ready – whether at home or at the pay-by-weight restaurant. The majority of black women among domestic servants and caregivers explains the subaltern place to which they are relegated in our history, coined in enslavement.

It is no coincidence that informality persists in these sectors, with the denial, in practice, of what the PEC das Domésticas guaranteed and the veto, by President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), of the bill that regulates the profession of caregivers for the elderly. Early childhood education professionals also struggle to be recognized as teachers. Therefore, recognizing the centrality of these works is a major challenge.

As the recent pandemic and economic crisis have shown, women are the most affected by a State that has transferred responsibility for taking care of the health crisis to the private space. They expanded their participation among people who are discouraged and unavailable to work. It became even more painful to have a paid job in 2021, with nurseries and schools closed and the delay in starting vaccination.

In this sense, political agendas that defend racial and gender equality need to commit to the universalization of public care facilities, such as day care centers and spaces for the elderly. It is also necessary to encourage the creation of leave equally divided between fathers, a reality in many countries, making men responsible for care. It is urgent for the State to act in promoting structural and cultural changes: maintenance of the policy of racial quotas in higher education; public campaigns to denaturalize skills and abilities with gender and race bias; and an anti-sexist and anti-racist education.

Women organized in social movements prioritized valuing the minimum wage as a political agenda in the early 2000s. Organized marches to Brasília were taken over by the union movement and resulted in the greatest redistribution achievement of the XNUMXst century, with a reduction in the wage gap between white men, white women, black men and black women. This achievement, achieved in the Lula and Dilma Rousseff (PT) governments, was discontinued by the Michel Temer (MDB) and Jair Bolsonaro governments.

The reduction of social inequalities in Brazil will necessarily pass through a feminist and anti-racist agenda. Women are the main ones affected by the discontinuity of redistributive policies, by changes that make working hours and contracts more flexible and by the State's disincentive to productive diversification. It is necessary to resume an agenda that bets on qualification, formalization, reduction of working hours without reducing wages, effective guarantee of breaks during the working day for breastfeeding and real appreciation of the minimum wage.

The commitment to greater appreciation and recognition of women's work needs to be viscerally tied to the redistributive agenda. Only then, they will have a retribution commensurate with their share in the production of wealth for the country.

* Barbara Castro is a professor at the Department of Sociology at Unicamp.

*Lygia Sabbag Fares is a professor at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (New York).

* Patricia Vieira Tropia Professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU).

*Selma Cristina Silva is a professor at the Department of Education at UFBA.

Originally published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul.

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