Gender and Salaries of the Qualified
Workforce in Brazil and Mexico
Maria Cristina Cacciamali and Fábio Tatei
INTRODUCTION ( ...continuation )

This article is divided into four sections, plus the introduction and final comments. The first section shall introduce the main features of the qualified labor market using comparisons between the two countries and between the analytical groups that were built. Among the main results, it was observed that Mexican women have lower activity than Brazilian women in all groups studied. This is primarily due to fewer opportunities in the labor market for women. There was also a lower salary gap among qualified workers in Mexico. The second section shall present the data sources, statistical models used to estimate salary differences and the degree of salary discrimination and the respective variables used. The two final sections shall analyze the estimates calculated using the salary equations and the results of the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition.

The rate of return for the variables considered — education, experience, employment category and geographic region — revealed expected behavior for both countries, with elevated salary differences between employed university graduates and everyone else, and experience being a key factor to determine the salaries of persons in high positions. The level of salary discrimination between genders was estimated using the Oaxaca-Blinder technique, which has its limitations, in accordance with what the literature confirms. Some limits include the fact that the level of discrimination may depend on a varied set of unobserved variables, such as leadership capacity, quality of training, ability to communicate and workplace relations. As such, the estimate of this indicator may be an overestimate. However, we understand that in the labor market, the valuation of observable and unobservable attributes is defined following masculine patterns; in other words, using criteria stipulated by men that, in the majority of companies, largely limits the chance for women to be recognized and awarded monetary compensation that matches their abilities and merit. Studies have shown that in the majority of companies, men are given preference to participate in professional training, which is extremely important to climb the professional ladder and be promoted for executive or decision-making positions. In both countries, the estimates indicated that, besides a few exceptions, the salaries of women were below those of men, independent of the type of employment or level of qualification.

Finally, this text shall discuss some last considerations, emphasizing the importance of public policies that minimize discrimination against women in the qualified workforce, and increasing their participation in political and economic governance in society.


More adults in Brazil are involved in economic activity than in Mexico. In 2008, Brazil’s working age population (wap) — persons 20 years of age or older — was nearly double what it was in Mexico. Additionally, the latter country’s participation of women was nearly 7 percentage points below activity for Brazilian women, while the rate for men was similar in both countries. This behavior is reflected in a lower employment rate and more unemployment in Mexico, especially for women (Table 1). In Brazil, the overall employment rate is 67.1%, while it is 80.5% for men and 54.9% for women. In Mexico, these figures are 61.6%, 82.7% and 43.3%, respectively. This behavior agrees with the results indicated by the Gender Disparity Index, mentioned in the introduction to this text, which demonstrated that Mexican women have low economic participation and opportunities, as this was the main sub-score that dropped Mexico’s ranking in the classification of 134 countries.