Volume 44, Number 172,
January-March 2013
Gender and Salaries of the Qualified
Workforce in Brazil and Mexico
Maria Cristina Cacciamali* and Fábio Tatei**
Date received: February 16, 2012. Date accepted: April 17, 2012

This article analyzes salary discrimination against women with higher education in Brazil and Mexico. This study applied two surveys in 2008 that allowed for the construction of analytical categories compatible between the two countries: pnad (Brazil) and enoe (Mexico). Factors that determine gender discrimination in the labor market and its consequences were calculated over the salary differentials using the Oaxaca-Blinder method. The main results show that, for both countries, discrimination is lower among workers with completed higher education than for the rest of the population, although qualified workers show a greater difference relative to other employed groups.

Keywords: discrimination, salary gap, qualified workforce, higher education, gender.

This work analyzes the salary gap between men and women with higher education in Brazil and Mexico. The qualified labor market was chosen for study due to two main reasons. First, it is a more homogenous market, with fewer information asymmetries, where the presence of specific certifications allows for standardized processes and selection criteria, which provides more precise information about employees, expected productivity and salaries. Secondly, higher education increases the probability for both men and women to access more prestigious positions, higher-ranking jobs and executive roles in private sector organizations. The public sector uses merit-based criteria for hiring qualified employees. Research on the insertion of women in the qualified labor market will provide important information regarding the existence and possibility of equitable gender relations.

Mexico and Brazil were chosen for this analysis, as both present high and persistent gender inequality, although they are among some of the most dynamic economies in the Latin American region, with diversified and complex production structures, and are part of the group of countries known as “emerging economies.”

The participation of women has grown in both countries, mainly in Brazil. In both cases, the number of women in higher positions has increased, but they are still not well represented in the private sector. There has been no significant increase in women holding executive or decision-making positions, nor has there been much change in terms of reducing salary inequalities (Maria Cristina Cacciamali, Fábio Tatei, forthcoming publication). What there has been are marginal changes — but not structural — in the opportunities and economic participation available to women in both societies.

The Gender Disparity Index, calculated by the World Economic Forum, shows that the two countries have lower rankings than other Latin American countries and medium-high income nations. Among the 26 countries analyzed in Latin America, Mexico and Brazil rank 21stst and 22ndnd, respectively. They rank 25th and 27th among 38 medium-high income countries, and are ranked 82ndnd and 89th in the general classification of 135 countries (World Economic Forum, 2011). The index takes into account economic participation and opportunities, education, health and survival and political power.1 The profile that leads to low performance is different in each country. The general score for Brazil fell due to a low sub-score for “political power,” where the country was ranked 114th. In Mexico, the category responsible for the low ranking was “economic participation and opportunities,” where Mexico was 109th on the list.

The study presents the situation for men and women in the two countries from a comparative perspective. This was possible using micro-data from the National Household Sample Survey (pnad, Brazil) and the National Occupation and Employment Survey (enoe, Mexico, 2008), which allow us to build comparable samples and establish similar analytical categories between the two countries, recognized by the United Nations International Statistics System. The active population was defined as having a minimum age of 20 years, and from there, three groups of analysis were created: employed, employed with higher education and employed with higher education in a position that requires this level of training.

*Tenured Professor of the Economics Department, President of the Post-Graduate Program in Latin American Integration at the University of São Paulo (prolam-usp) and Coordinator of the International Studies and Comparative Politics Group (nespi/usp_cnp q). E-mail: cciamali@uol.com.br

** Master’s in Latin American Integration from the Post-Graduate Program in Latin American Integration at the University of São Paulo and researcher. E-mail: ftatei@gmail.com

1 Sub-scores were built using a set of indicators. The following stand out, among others: participation in the workforce, salary equality, women in executive positions, employed women with higher education, enrollment in primary, secondary and higher education; birth rate for women, life expectancy and women in parliamentary, ministerial and presidential positions over the past 50 years.

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2019 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 50, Number 196 January-March 2019 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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