Young Brazilians turn to labor and training to overcome extreme poverty

June 13, 2013


At Senac, in Teresina (PI), young men and women take courses made available by Pronatec: the program aims to train one million new workers by 2014.

Mariana Ceratti/World Bank

  • Labor is primarily responsible for the recent poverty decline witnessed in Brazil.
  • Brazil expands professional training programs, labor intermediation and microcredit to help the poorest people gain employment.
  • Those are the two conclusions of a recent conference on inclusive production.

It’s Thursday afternoon in Teresina, Brazil. While outside there is heat and noise, within Senac classrooms in Piauí, hundreds of students enjoy silence and the coolness of air-conditioning. Many are enrolled in the Federal Government's Bolsa Família program.

They use the benefit and additional training programs to ensure a better future for themselves. "I dream of going beyond, studying, having a good profession," says Tamires Rodrigues, 17. She and her colleagues are on the right track, for two reasons:

First: labor was largely responsible for the reduction of extreme poverty in Brazil, during the first decade of the 2000s. This data comes from the Global Development Report 2013 (i)

"For poverty reduction to occur steadily, it is crucial to promote the access of the poor to vocational training courses, labor intermediation services and microcredit" reinforces economist Joana Silva, from the World Bank .

The set of such elements is called productive inclusion. Productive inclusion, in turn, is a major pillar of the Plan Brazil Without Extreme Poverty (Plano Brasil Sem Miséria) (2011), which has the goal of lifting 16 million Brazilians out of extreme poverty by 2014.

Precarious jobs

The second reason why the low-income youth need to invest in professional training has to do with the precariousness of the jobs currently held by those who receive the Bolsa Família benefit.

As the labor market in Brazil becomes increasingly formal, their access to such jobs remains limited, as shown by a study conducted by researcher Alexander Leichsering, from the University of São Paulo (USP).

Between 2004 and 2007, only about 10% of Bolsa Família beneficiaries had held a formal job at some point. Of this total, half lost their jobs within one year of being hired.

" Pronatec shows that quality training is offered to low-income individuals and when social assistance participates in the process of mobilizing such individuals, very important advances can be made.  "

Tiago Falcão

Special Secretary for Extreme Poverty Reduction, Ministry of Social Development (MDS).

Career path

"Education is essential for the poorest to no longer be subjected to short-term jobs, so they may enter a career path," Leichsering explained, during the Seminar on Productive Inclusion, held in May in Campinas (SP) and sponsored by the Ministry of Social Development (MDS), the World Bank and the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).

The National Program for Access to Technical Education and Employment (Pronatec), under the Ministry of Education (MEC), is an ally of Brazil's low-income youth who are concerned about their professional future".

It offers training that takes into account the level of education of the students, the professional profile they may already possess and the economic characteristics of each municipality", said MEC's Secretary of Technological Education, Marco Antonio Oliveira, in Campinas.

When classes end, students are referred to the labor market. The idea is to have one million new skilled professionals by 2014, in such areas as workplace safety, civil construction, tourism and programming for the internet, among others.  

Welcoming and orientation

Every student who takes courses goes through a welcoming phase, which is just as important in helping the student plan his/her professional life.

"At enrolment, they all receive information about what they can do once training is concluded", said Felipe Morgado, executive director of Senai's technological education sector, while in Campinas.

This orientation is useful for those who want to reach new heights - such as Tamires, from Piauí, who wants to be a doctor: "As receptionist in the health sector, I can start to specialize."

While studying to pursue their dream careers and have better lives than those of their parents, she and her colleagues also become the driving force behind a country pursuing sustainable growth.