When you picture Brazil, it’s hard to look beyond the bold and daring luminescence of the carnival, the colourful flair of the national football team and the imposing magnificence of Christ the Redeemer. But there’s more to this Latin American paradise than just warm, golden beaches and hypnotic samba rhythms – the country’s sizeable and prosperous economy is also attracting more and more expats looking to work abroad.
There’s a good reason, too. Despite its global reputation as a carefree party capital, Brazil is now a world leader in several sectors, particularly banking and finance. For those with the right mix of skills, there’s a number of exciting opportunities available.
So, if you’re starting to feel like you need a little more sunshine and colour in your life, read on – this is how to work in Brazil!
Dominating the geographical landmass of South America, Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world. With an estimated population of around 207 million people, it is nestled comfortably within the top 10 global GDP rankings, and is projected to stay that way over the next 4 years.
For a country built on migrant workers in the early part of the 20th Century, immigration rates are actually very low – just 0.3% of the population, in fact. As a guide, Brazil issued 73,000 visas to foreign workers in 2012 (although this number has likely risen in the last 6 years), with arrivals from the US making up the bulk of applications; these low numbers can perhaps be attributed to the notorious difficulty of obtaining such a visa.
Another reason is the high unemployment rate, which currently stands at 11.8%. This has seen the government make a conscious effort to try and put Brazilian workers first when jobs become available.
Nonetheless, the country has several thriving industries. Agriculture is the biggest, with Brazil the number one producer of both sugar cane and coffee beans in the world; it is also the world’s second-largest beef cattle producer, after the US.
It’s not all about farming, though – Brazil is a serious player in a number of modern fields. In the finance sector, the Brazilian real continues to perform impressively against other world-leading currencies while it is the second largest producer of renewable hydroelectric energy in the world, ahead of the likes of the US, the UK and Canada.
Key industries include:
- Finance and banking
- Production and manufacturing
- Energy / Oil and gas
Notable global companies headquartered in Brazil include:
- Petrobras (Energy / Oil and gas)
- Vale (Mining)
- Itaú Unibanco (Banking and finance)
As Brazil is such a vast country, average salaries vary widely, but a fair estimate is around R$2,150 per month (£475/$665). However, as foreign workers are usually highly skilled, it’s likely that you would earn at least three times this amount. In general, there is a large disparity in wages between low-skilled workers – many of whom often work for below minimum wage – and skilled middle and upper-class professionals, which has led to significant social disquiet on several occasions.
Cost of Living
In most instances, these lower wages are in line with a lower cost of living, but in the larger and more popular cities, the balance is often unequal. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, for example, are two of the most expensive cities in South America.
According to Numbeo, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the centre of Sao Paulo is R$1,930 (£425/$595), although it is possible to find similar properties further outside the city for around R$1,335 (£295/$410). To put this in context, further north, in the historical coastal city of Recife, one-bedroom properties are between R$720 (£160/$220) and R$1,060 (£235/$330) per month.
The standard of public transport is often subject to fierce criticism from Brazilians, even sparking widespread riots in 2014 ahead of the country's hosting of the FIFA World Cup. That said, the price of using trains and buses is fairly low; a monthly pass can cost you anywhere between R$130 (£30/$40) and R$230 (£50/$70) depending on where you commute to and from. In contrast, buying a car can be relatively expensive, with questionable driving standards in Brazil – especially in the larger cities – also putting people off.
Brazilian law states that employees are not allowed to exceed 44 working hours in a week, with most averaging around 40 between Monday and Friday. However, the law around holiday entitlement is a little stranger: workers are given a block of 30 calendar days each year that they must take all at once (although it is possible to split this allowance into two separate vacations).
On the bright side, there are eight public holidays (usually religious in their nature), while it is illegal for non-essential service personnel to work either on Christmas Day or New Years’ Day.
Finding a Job
Unfortunately, as a foreigner, you may encounter a lot of resistance in your job search abroad. This is because most Brazilian companies prefer to employ locals over expats, even if you are willing to relocate at your own expense. Language can be a barrier, too: if you can’t speak Portuguese – the national recognised language of Brazil – then it’s realistically not worth even applying at all.
That doesn’t mean that opportunities don’t exist, though. As always, working for a multinational company is a good way to find a job, so keep an eye out for any internal vacancies or secondment opportunities. It is also vital to establish and maintain a strong network of contacts, as a lot of vacancies are not advertised publicly; knowing people in the right places is usually a precursor to most foreigners finding employment.
Alternatively, you can acquire a skill that is in high demand. As previously mentioned, companies are willing to pay higher salaries for foreign candidates who can bring desirable skills and experience to the table, especially within the tech and IT sector. This is likely the only thing that will give you an advantage over the local population.
Seasonal and Part-Time Work
Due to Brazil’s incredible beaches and areas of outstanding natural beauty, the tourist industry is very active. As a result, English-speaking workers are often in demand to cater for the high influx of US tourists. Although much of the work is temporary and poorly paid, it can be a stop gap while you look for something more permanent.
It is also possible to teach English as a foreign language, particularly in the larger cities. Although contracts are typically very short, the salary can be very good; if you don’t mind hopping between jobs, this can be a viable option.
Visas and Work Permits
Even if you do manage to secure yourself a position, this is where things can start to get tricky; this is because unlike many countries, you will need to obtain a residency permit and a work visa separately. To make things even more complicated, the work visa needs to be acquired in your home country, so even if you’re already in Brazil on a tourist visa, you essentially need to go back home to get back in!
You should apply for the residency permit first (it doesn’t matter if it’s temporary or permanent), and then once you have been offered a job, your employer-in-waiting will kick off the work visa process. It’s worth noting that if you leave to work for another company in Brazil, you will have to reapply for another work visa.
From start to finish, this process can be lengthy and expensive, so you will need to be patient and prepared throughout; hopefully, though, everything will go to plan and all that will be left to do is make what is undoubtedly an exciting, life-changing and hugely rewarding move. Although there are genuine social inequality issues in Brazil, it’s a fascinating and fun-loving nation that is constantly making progress in the right direction; a perfect location, in other words, in which to take your career.
Are you thinking of moving to Brazil for work? Let us know in the comments below!
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 20 February 2018.