Gender and Salaries of the Qualified
Workforce in Brazil and Mexico
Maria Cristina Cacciamali and Fábio Tatei

The average income/hour achieved by those with university studies and employment that requires this type of training is higher than persons with university studies employed in any type of work, although the weight of discrimination for these two categories is different in each country. In Brazil, there were no significant changes, such that the income gap due to discrimination between the two samples of those with university studies was two percentage points lower than employed persons whose jobs require higher education. In Mexico, the behavior for this indicator was different, with a significant decrease in the level of discrimination, even falling below the level of Brazil (Table 12). This means that in Brazil, where demand for qualified labor is more dynamic, the level of discrimination is maintained or falls very little for higher prestige and/or executive positions, while in Mexico, where the labor market absorbs relatively less qualified labor and offers fewer opportunities for women, the level of discrimination falls. The composition of the category of those employed with university studies shows that in Brazil, just over two-thirds of those with high-level jobs are in executive positions or high-level professionals (67.6%), while in Mexico the proportion reaches 37.5%. In other words, one possible interpretation is that in the countries studied, there is a positive relationship between the supply of high prestige jobs and the degree of discrimination. When there are greater opportunities to climb the ladder, women find more resistance to enter decision-making positions.

The results of the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition confirm that women face disadvantages as compared to men. Regardless of the type of job or the level of qualification, there is a high probability that women will receive on average a lower income than men for work that is productively similar, simply due to discrimination.


The Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition corroborates evidence found in literature regarding the presence of a non-explanatory component of the salary differential between genders that is generally associated with discrimination.6 Differences between productive, personal and regional factors are not enough to explain the income gap between men and women in the qualified labor market in both countries. This study makes advances in two areas. First, by comparing evidence regarding gender differences among qualified employees and all adult employees. Second, by analyzing the salary gap from a comparative perspective between two countries in Latin America. Both countries have low rankings in the Gender Disparity Index, although the two emerging economies have diversified productive structures, medium-high per capita income and salaries above the regional average. The results of this research indicate that Brazilian women, on average, tend to participate relatively more in the qualified labor market than Mexican women. However, the fact that the Brazilian labor market is more dynamic and that women there have a higher activity rate means that there are higher unemployment rates and greater negative income differences as compared to men, than there are in the Mexican qualified labor market. On the other hand, the fact that Mexico has a less dynamic labor market and a more patriarchal society confirms the female role as reproducer and caretaker for family members. The limited economic opportunities that Mexican women face lead to lower salary differences between male and female qualified workers in comparison with their Brazilian counterparts.

6 Among others: Barros, Franco, Mendonça (2007), Cavalieri, Fernandes (1988), Jasso, Flores (2004), Lovell (1992), Rocha, Pero (2007), Soares (2000), Wood, Carvalho (1994).