Latin America's worst wage gap for women and minorities? Powerhouse Brazil.
Men earn 30 percent more than women in Brazil, according to a new report from the Inter-American Development Bank. That gap is almost zero in Guatemala and Bolivia.
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While old-fashioned discrimination is to blame in part for unequal wage distribution, there are other forces at play, says Ñopo. The study revealed the same gender income gaps for those who are self-employed – data that surprised the researchers and goes against long-held views that the employer is always to blame. "It's the other way around. Self-employment is very attractive for females who have to take care of household responsibilities," Ñopo says. "Having flexibility is invaluable for them. But the result is this flexibility that they look for in the labor market comes at a price."Skip to next paragraph
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Brazil also at bottom for racial disparity
For minorities, Brazil is also is ranked at the bottom of the list at 30 percent disparity (followed by Guatemala at 24 percent and Paraguay at 22 percent).
The indigenous, who comprise about 10 percent of Latin America´s population, have made strides in countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador, reasserting their rights to resources and political inclusion. But in the seven countries where data was collected for the IADB study, ethnic and racial minorities earn 28 percent less than their white counterparts.
Mario Theodoro, a director at the government-sponsored research institute Ipea and author of a book on racial inequality in Brazil, says that Brazil's emergence on the world scene has not included everybody.
"What we have shown is that in spite of the growth, in spite of a more diversified economy, in spite of more jobs and higher paying jobs, the difference between blacks and whites remain," says Mr. Theodoro. "The classic economic instruments are not sufficient to resolve problems of racism that are historical and cultural. We need to use different methods."
The government defends Brazil's record. Edson Santos, the Special Secretary for Policies Promoting Racial Equality, says that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has made it a point to address inequality.
"The gaps are high but they are being reduced over time, especially since Lula took power," Mr. Santos says, adding that under Lula the income of the poor has risen by 10 percent while the income of the rich has risen 2 percent.
Ivanir dos Santos, the executive secretary of the Center for the Articulation of Marginalized Peoples, says that the country´s legacy of slavery has taken a toll and that affirmative action programs, such as those developed in the US, are crucial to promote real change. An optional quota for blacks in federal universities, for example, is a step forward but does not go far enough. The government needs to take more mandatory measures, Mr. Dos Santos says.
Compounding the problem, he says, is that Brazil's Congress and the media are dominated by white men and blacks tend not to be in politics in Brazil, in large part because they are poor and uneducated. There is neither an influential lobby nor a thriving black middle class.
"Brazil is growing but the difference between blacks and whites remains the same," says dos Santos. "More concrete measures are needed."