Brazil is in a bind. It has a wealth of natural resources and is among the most powerful industrial producers in the world, but the nation’s economic growth hinges on skilled workers it doesn’t have.
The country has grown fast, achieving in the past 20 years what “it took the United States to accomplish in 200 years,” marvels Ambassador Thomas Shannon, who recently finished his tour as Washington’s top envoy to Brasilia and now serves as a senior advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The world’s sixth-largest economy, Brazil is a top exporter of farm products (sugar, coffee, oranges, beef, poultry, soy) and manufactured goods (from airplanes to vaccines), and it may join the ranks of the world’s biggest oil suppliers before long.
Brazil is home to one of the world’s fastest-growing emerging markets. From commodities to food exports to aircraft manufacturing to oil exploration, the South American powerhouse is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom.
The flourishing economy has provided Brazil with an enviably low unemployment rate. But growth has also presented the country with some big challenges – and education may be the biggest. Brazil’s hot job market is attracting plenty of skilled workers from outside the country’s borders. But Brazil is only now emerging from great poverty and inequality, and its public education system has so far been unable to produce enough skilled labour to meet the demand.
“Businessmen will say to you that it’s the biggest problem we have,” says Dr. Helen Joyce, Brazil bureau chief for The Economist. “[They] cannot pick qualified staff – the labour turnover is horrendous here.”
The Brazilian government is looking to change the way its immigration policy is oriented towards highly-skilled foreign professionals wanting to work in the country. Some commentators say that Brazil wants to lure skilled workers from Europe made unemployed in the economic downturn, at the same time as a crackdown against illegal workers has also been announced.
If recommendations from a presidential advisory group are followed, highly-qualified foreign workers could be given VIP visa treatment.
The experts say existing rules for skilled migrants are too strict, and that there is too much bureaucracy for applicants while proving their eligibility in the work visa process.