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Labour flexibility in a flexible market: intermediaries and their workers in Brazil: a comparative perspective

Grant number: 16/14500-3
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): October 01, 2016
Effective date (End): March 31, 2017
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Sociology - Other specific Sociologies
Principal Investigator:Nadya Araujo Guimarães
Grantee:Nadya Araujo Guimarães
Host Investigator: Albert David Lehmann
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: University of Cambridge, England  
Associated research grant:13/07616-7 - CEM - Center for Metropolitan Studies, AP.CEPID


The rise of emerging markets challenges expectations on employment prospects usually shaped by scholars from the developed countries. Empirical evidence for the Brazilian case shows that an intriguing expansion of formally protected job contracts occurred in the 2000s amidst a generalized shortage of occupational opportunities elsewhere. Besides, its correlate was an increasing commodification of the job search and of the recruitment mechanisms not only in Brazil but also in the so-called less developed countries. Evidences from comparative data (provided by the International Confederation of Employment Agencies) show that Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have become crucial players when it comes to the business of temporary jobs; side by side with traditional ones as UK, Spain, Netherlands, US and Japan. This move echoes the recent reconfigurations of job opportunities mainly for young and women, a group of increasingly better-educated workers, as well as important changes in the international division of responsibilities on temporary jobs creation. My activities at the University of Cambridge / CLAS, between October 2016 and June 2017 will deal with this scenario, aiming to finish the manuscript of a new book entitled Flexibility in a Flexible Market: Intermediaries and its Workers In Brazil. After ten years of empirical research on the Brazilian case, the book will document how this process took place in this country, (i) producing a new entrepreneurship on this economic segment, (ii) improving market governance in a social fabric dominated by personal networks when it comes to searching and finding jobs and (iii) expanding new employment relations (intermediated ones) in a pace even more accelerated than the remarkable growth of protected employment observed in Brazil from 2004 to 2013. One main question will guide the data analysis: what is new on labour flexibility when it takes place in an already flexible, scarcely protected and highly unequal labour market? The period at CLAS will allow me to revise and complement previous analysis, and to collect bibliographic information on the constitution of labour market intermediaries in different countries in order to achieve to a final version for the whole manuscript. The analysis on the triangular relationship between user firm, employment agency and job seeker, needs to explain at least two interconnected aspects: (1) the rationale underlying the labour intermediation process, a highly complex capitalist business embedded in specific economic relations between the suppliers of labour, in one side, and the user firms, in the other; (2) the rationale and interpretations that emerge in the job search situation, when workers seeking for employment opportunities have to interact with job intermediaries. Besides this main goal, the period of affiliation with CLAS will allow me to finish data analysis for the final report on my CEM project (due to May 2017) dealing with the effect of an affirmative action program (implemented by a highly prestigious Brazilian university) on labour market entrance, comparing beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. A panel on employment experiences after College graduation has been conducted since 2010-2011(4-5 years after graduation), with a second data collection in 2014 and a third in 2016 (6 years from College).Finally, the Visiting Scholarship will certainly improve the quality of my most recent field of research, the commodification of care work in Brazil, under the conditions of an increasing economic participation of women and persistent gender/race inequalities in the country. The importance of gender and race debates for the present agenda of CLAS makes me sure that my ideas will also be able to nourish an intense collaboration with colleagues at Cambridge.

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