By Helen Trouten Torres, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – More than half of Brazilian workers who possess a university degree are in low and medium level positions of employment, according to a new study by the General Register of Employed and Unemployed (CAGED) of the Ministry of Labor. For the director of the Institute of Economics at UFRJ, João Saboia, who managed the study, this shows a clear imbalance of supply and demand.
“If more than half of graduates are unable to secure jobs that require higher education, it’s a big waste of manpower yet we often hear talk of a lack of manpower,” he recently told O Globo newspaper.
Saboia’s explanation for this contradiction is a mismatch between training and market needs. Saboia suggests one reason is the low quality of some universities. “People are paying to have a diploma from unsatisfactory universities. The training is insufficient for the labor market.”
Choice of undergraduate course is also important. According to the Higher Education Census of 2009 (the latest data from the Ministry of Education) there is increased demand in technical areas such as engineering and geology for industries such as construction, oil and gas.
Courses in business (1.1 million enrollments), law (651,000), and education (573,000) led the ranking of enrollments in the country. Engineering enrollments were also high (420,000) yet the shortfall of Brazilian engineers continues. According to Naercio Menezes Filho, coordinator of the Center for Public Policy (INSPER), there has been a polarization.
Between 2008 and 2009, enrollments in technology courses were twice as high as traditional courses at 26 percent. In 2009, Brazil had 680,600 students in technology courses, and ten years ago the number was 69,700.
The study also focuses on the average salaries of recent university graduates. 76.6 percent of them entered the job market earning up to three minimum wages (R$1,635) per month. Cimar Azeredo, head of the Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), says that the wages of those with University degrees has been falling. While the average income grew 1.8 percent in April, compared to the same month of 2010, the salary of university graduates fell 0.9 percent.
“There is a large influx of graduates in the market. Graduates are hired at a lower salary and in positions out with their field of study.” From 2003 to 2010, the number of Brazilians in higher education increased from 2.6 million to four million” says Azeredo.
Despite the lower initial payment, IBGE data shows that university graduation ensures greater participation in the labor market. In 2010, 78.9 percent of the working age population with higher education was working. For the group with just middle-school education, the employment level was 50.4 percent.
Solutions include educational policies that relate economic growth and professional education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the bi-annual “Occupational Outlook Handbook” as a guide for job-seekers to consult before entering University to check current industry demand, average salaries and projected future demand for each profession. The UK offers this as well with its ‘Prospects’ service.
The Ministry of Labor in Brazil has on its website the Register of Occupations which provides profiles of each profession, without further elaboration on market conditions. Although some new efforts are being made regionally, including a portal for occupations in the State of São Paulo in partnership with the Department of Employment and Labor Relations (SERT) due to be launched next year.