Economic downturn pushes Brazilians into informal economy
By Silvio Cascione
BRASILIA, March 19 (Reuters) - Mounting job losses are pushing more and more Brazilians into the informal economy as self-employed workers, leaving them vulnerable to what could be the country's worst recession in 25 years.
Tens of thousands of people who lost full-time jobs are now freelancing as bricklayers, truck drivers and maids to make ends meet as they look for increasingly scarce jobs. In the process, they often lose access to welfare benefits and face greater credit restrictions.
Self-employed workers, most of them earning no more than about $450 a month, now represent 19.5 percent of employees in Brazil's main cities - the highest level in eight years and up from 17.5 percent in 2012, according to official data for January.
The quest of people like José Lúcio da Silva, 55, illustrates how Brazil's economy and labor market have over the last two years lost the vigor of the previous decade.
"The boss said things were slowing and then he fired us," said Silva, who had a formal job as a sealant installer at building sites in Brasilia for nearly 30 years.
He is only five years away from retirement, provided he finds another full-time "registered" job with benefits.
"You can't find a freelance job every day. You can take a few of them here and there, but sometimes these jobs take a while to appear," he added.
The loss of secure jobs is a blow to an already weak economy and to President Dilma Rousseff, who won re-election in October thanks in large part to low unemployment. Continuación...