Brazilian employment legislation is extremely paternalistic, perhaps in response to a history of widespread slavery and indentured labour and an extremely unequal distribution of wealth. However, much as it may be understandable, it is inappropriate for a country wanting to grow and improve. Nor is it just the untenably high employee oncosts, coupled with legislation which protects incompetent and dishonest employees. The proliferation of trades unions, and the presence of specialist “workers rights” judges, involves employers spending billions each year defending nonsensical lawsuits from opportunist employees represented by opportunist lawyers: the avaricious leading the blind to sue the disadvantaged, overseen by a nanny state managed by imbeciles. It’s not ideal, for all love, is it?
To move forward in any meaningful way, one of the things Brazil must do is to reduce the costs of employment, in the context of reasonable employee protection, and at the same time put in place a system which requires the employee the take some responsibility for his or her actions. To encourage this, there clearly needs to be a balance between the needs of the employee and the needs of the employer. And the solution must be merit based. As long as Brazil continues to indulge in nepotism, cronyism and corruption, there will always be a majority who are poorly educated, disadvantaged and disenfranchised (but don’t know any better, and are unable to do anything about it), and a minority who are ignorant, arrogant and incompetent (but don’t have to care about it).
A small example will illustrate. In Brazil, a petrol (gas) station is required to have forecourt attendants, because a union demands it. The union regulates (very, very badly), the hours the attendants may work and the multiplicity of extra payments the employee is entitled to (extra payments for wearing a uniform, working a pump, handling cash, moving in any way at all and for breathing unnecessarily). It is, to be honest, an unpleasant job: generally attendants are treated like shit by the public (mostly the rich), they smell of petrol all day, and are regularly held up by armed criminals (mostly the poor). They represent a staggeringly large percentage of the total costs of petrol station ownership, and they mostly sit around all day dreaming up schemes to steal from their employer. However – and this is the point – the fact that they are completely, absolutely and wholly unnecessary (excuse the tautology) is ignored by everyone.
Now, throughout Brazil, thousands of similarly pointless jobs – often related to the pointless bureaucracy which is fundamental for a system built on mutual mistrust – are protected by the state and the attendant unions, and it is clear that it will take a political force of great vision and strength to begin to change it: who, after all, wants to be the one to consign people to a growing list of unemployed? But, if Brazil wants to become “a player”, as it keeps telling us it does (or is), then change there must be. Of course there are those who believe this type of paternalism is the way to go – but in this case, they may want to look at how to do a better job of it. Maybe they should go and get some advice from Kim Ill Looking and his bunch, who seem to be much better at that sort of thing (ah, but then that would be taking advice from gringos, and we would not want that, would we..?).