With a population of nearly 191 million people and a GDP per capita of $10,710 in 2010, Brazil is one of the largest democracies in the world and is a rising economic power. Reforms in the 1990s enabled Brazil to move away from a history of economic boom and bust and enter a sustained period of growth and stability.

Brazil has vast natural resources, including one-third of the world’s tropical rain forests. Its main exports are transport equipment, iron ore, soybeans and footwear. The recent discovery of vast oil reserves could move Brazil into the top oil producing countries.

Today, there is a wide gap between rich and poor although innovative social programmes such as Bolsa Familia and Brasil sem Miséria are helping to reduce social and economic inequality.

Social indicators have improved significantly for example, extreme poverty (people living on less than $1/day) has fallen to 3.8 per cent, the infant mortality rate has fallen to 17 per 1,000 live births and access to improved drinking water is near universal.

A strong domestic market, recovery of commodity prices and the implementation of counter-cyclical macroeconomic policy meant that Brazil bounced back relatively quickly from the global economic crisis that started in 2008.

Decent work and labour market issues

Brazil is working to increase social justice, reduce poverty and inequality, improve governance and ensure sustainable development. Promotion of decent work has been identified as central to these aims and is a priority of the government of Brazil.

The labour market in Brazil has undergone a number of positive changes in recent years. Employment has grown and the number of people working in formal sector jobs has increased. This means more workers contribute to social security and social spending.

Minimum wage hikes mean that living standards have increased and poverty and inequality have been reduced. More people are joining trade unions and are covered by collective bargaining agreements that increase wages and real earnings.

Job creation is still needed to tackle high youth unemployment.

Gender and racial gaps persist. While more women are working than ever before, the burden of domestic responsibilities remains unchanged.

Despite great progress in eradicating child labour and forced labour, these issues are still of major concern. The number of working children remains high.

Decent work into national policies

In 2006 the government, workers and employers organizations, in consultation with the ILO agreed on the National Decent Work Agenda, which sets out a broad vision for reaching the goal of decent work for all. Strategies include increasing training and access to microfinance to foster entrepreneurship and increase job opportunities, particularly for young people.

In 2010, the National Plan for Decent Work was introduced to build on earlier successes.

The Government and Social Partners with ILO support have identified the following priorities:

  1. job creation, equality of opportunity and treatment
  2. elimination of forced labour and child labour, particularly in its worst forms
  3. strengthening the tripartite partners and fostering a culture of social dialogue
These priorities also contribute towards the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

National partners

Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego (MTE) – Brasil
Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE)


Further reading