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According to decomposition analysis (Theil-T method), after education, race is the most important determinant of income levels in Brazil. Ample evidence illustrates that Afrodescendent-Brazilians are much more likely to be unemployed than other heads of household. Despite recent legal and social changes, racial and ethnic discrimination remains a major impediment to social advancement for blacks. In addition, the proportion of poor young people engaged in casual or informal forms of employment is far higher than other groups.120 A government study in 1999 showed that in Rio alone, 1.5 million youngsters between the ages of 10 and 17 years were working. The high dropout or non-enrolment rates of youths in São Paulo secondary schools points to the high level of adolescents in work there, in a country where cultural acceptance of youths working instead of being at school is widely held. One researcher in the Rio study remarked, ‘The majority of the youngsters come from poor families, which are not able to support themselves. For them, a paying occupation is, besides being a factor of independence, a way to avoid criminality. What kind of childhood do these slum children have? Their parents work the whole day and they are left home at the mercy of drug traffickers, violence and a lost bullet. I am in favour of ending child labour, but you cannot do this overnight.’121 Data explicitly shows that children of poor families, are more likely to curtail school and start working early. The middle and upper classes know the value of educational investments and critically, can also normally afford

it; far fewer of their children leave school before 12 years and many continue on to university. With the educational return on primary and much of secondary education decreasing, it is hard to see how the poorest groups that already face struggles to find formal employment will catch up. In São Paulo, poor urban youth may continue to suffer employment inequality, finding opportunities in the informal sector or crime. The separation of different groups by years of schooling in the informal

Data explicitly shows that children of poor families, are more likely to curtail school and start working early. sector is explicit and predictable in an increasingly narrow and demanding labour market. Between 70 and 80 per cent of those with zero to three years of education fill the ranks of the informal sector. By contrast, only between 15 and 25 per cent of those with 12 or more years of education work in the informal sector.122

Informality persists, but with mixed benefits to the poor According to government data, Brazil has more than 10 million informal enterprises. In the last 25 years, the estimated informality rate has remained just above 50 per cent, although signs suggest the level fell to around 47 per cent in 2007. Informal enterprises are not regularized, do not work with necessary

Repossession of land in Quarry in Guaianases, in the far Eastern Zone of São Paulo in 2004. On the day this photo was taken, homes in the area were removed, and many families were not offered alternative accommodation Image: Marcelo Min Fotogarrafa Agency

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Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Profile for unhabitat
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