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Brazil women earn less than men, despite forming majority of degree holders

  • 11/03/2018 10h53publicação
  • Rio de Janeirolocalização
Alana Gandra reports from Agência Brasil
Mais de 70 postos estarão abertos para a vacinação contra febre amarela

Women who hold a university degree make up 23.5%, whereas men who have graduated from university total 20.7%Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil

Despite making up the majority of people holding a university degree, women still have to cope with difficulties arising from gender-based inequalities in the labor market, according to a study entitled Statistics on Gender: Social Indicators on Women in Brazil, released this weak by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

Considering people aged 25 or older in 2016, the survey found that women who hold a university degree make up 23.5%, whereas men who have graduated from university total 20.7%.

Comparing monthly income, women earned an average of 75% of the money made by men from 2012 to 2016.

IBGE Economist Betina Fresneda explained that the figures on education are not necessarily reflected on the labor market. As women have higher education levels then men do, she argued, they should not have the same pay. “They should be earning more money, because the main variable on salary is education.”

High-school class attendance in 2016 also shows a higher percentage for women (73.5%) than it does for men (63.2%). The average for Brazilians reached 68.2%. The studies found that the school environment is more adequate for the kind of upbringing given to girls, where discipline is rewarded, the expert said. “It has more to do with the characteristics in the upbringing of girls. Other studies show that, in high school, for instance, men start having to cope with both studies and work more than women. A number of factors are associated with gender roles.”

In terms of income, public life, and decision making, Brazilian women are still at a lower level than that of men, as well as in the amount of time dedicated to caring for people and to household chores. The survey also confirms race-based inequalities—rates are different when white women are considered separate from black and brown women.

As for education, the study highlighted that inequalities among women are also striking. White women got a degree at a proportion twice as high as black and brown women did. “Skin color also has an effect on people’s chances of finishing university,” the economist remarked.

Economic structures

The amount of time dedicated to caring for people or household chores is reported to be greater among women (18.1 hours a week) than it is among men (10.5 hours a week). When Brazilians are grouped together, 14.1 hours a week are seen to be dedicated to this kind of work. “Whichever way we decide to divide it—by region, race, or age—women dedicate a considerable larger amount of hours than men to this kind of work,” said IBGE researcher Caroline Santos, who believes this indicator is important as it casts light on unpaid work.

Caroline noted that, skin color and race bring the country’s history to light, as black and brown women have dedicated more time to this type of unpaid work. Black and brown women are reported to allot 18.6 hours a week to caring for people or household chores, compared to 17.7 among white women.


In the study, a double shift is clear to be seen among women who have to cope with both housework and paid work. This often leads to women’s having to take precarious jobs, Santos argued.

To show how different the amount of work hours can be for men and women, when it comes to part-time jobs, women present a higher percentage (28.2%) than men do (14.1%).


Women are also reported as being underrepresented in several arenas, not just in the political field—as can be seen in Congress and government posts—but also management jobs, civil service, and law enforcement.

Brazil holds a low position among countries who reported to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) the percentage of chairs occupied by women in their lower house, said IBGE researcher Luanda Botelho. In December, 2017, Brazil ranked 152nd in a group of 190 nations, with 10.5% of chairs—a position below countries with a history of violence against women. On the global stage, Botelho referred to Brazil’s situation as severe—the worst performance among Latin American nations.

She went on to mention that Brazil has few women leading government ministries. On December 13 last year, of the 28 cabinet positions, only two were occupied by women.


Women also fail to be level with men when it comes to management positions, in both the public and private sectors, according to the survey: 62.2%% of men occupied management posts in 2016, compared to 37.8% of women. Of people aged 16–19, women had a better performance: 43.4% against men’s 56.6%.

Vitória (ES) - Mulheres e familiares de policiais permanecem na saída do Comando Geral da Polícia Militar de Vitória e impedem a saída dos militares (Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil)

On December 31, 2013, women accounted for 13.4% of the active staff of the country’s military and civil policeTânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil

The participation of women in Brazil’s police forces is also a key for gauging representation, and is also associated with the country’s policy regarding violence against women. Under Brazilian law, women have to receive assistance preferably from female agents. But their participation in both law enforcement agencies is still scarce. On December 31, 2013, women accounted for 13.4% of the active staff of the country’s military and civil police, according to the Survey on Basic State Information (Estadic).

The total proportion of women working as civil police throughout Brazil stood at 26.4% in December 2013, compared to 9.8% in the military police.

The IBGE gathered data from a number of other surveys, adopting criteria proposed by the United Nations. Indicators cover different periods, from 2011 to 2016.

Translated by Fabrício Ferreira

Edited by: Talita Cavalcante / Nira Foster