The Times of Oman ran a big article on why a lot of Americans are going to Brazil to start again these days So I thought I would share the one below, too.–Kevin
Working Abroad in Brazil
Part 1 of 4: What Makes Brazil Attractive?
By Volker Poelzl
Living Abroad Editor
A View of Rio de Janeiro’s business district.
Over the past decade Brazil’s stable and steadily growing economy has significantly raised the country’s clout in the international marketplace. Few people know that Brazil is among the world’s 10 largest economies and that it is Latin America’s largest and wealthiest country.
Brazil is not only a manufacturing giant with huge exports of products from heavy industry (steel, vehicles) and light industry (textiles, leather goods), but also an increasingly important destination for outsourcing of software development and call centers.
Brazil’s economy never suffered the same downturn as most developed countries. While much of the world is still mired in slow growth and recession, Brazil’s economic output keeps growing at a steady pace. The economy is expected to grow a record 7.3 percent in 2010, boosted by strong domestic demand and investments in the private sector. Unemployment in Brazil only rose slightly during the global downturn, and the unemployment rate has been steadily declining since 2008, reaching 7.2% by June 2010. Foreign investment has also remained strong over the past decade encouraged by the fiscal discipline shown by the Brazilian government. Thanks to these stable economic indicators Brazil had a record US$34 billion in direct foreign investment in 2007 and ranks among the most attractive countries for foreign direct investment—a clear sign that foreign companies have confidence in Brazil’s economic future and seek to expand their economic activities in Brazil. In addition, in 2008 Standard & Poor’s, a Wall Street company that conducts financial research and analysis on stocks and bonds, upgraded Brazil’s debt to investment grade for the very first time. This improved rating makes Brazil an even more attractive destination for foreign investment and foreign lending and is another indicator that Brazil will play a growing role in international financial markets. Foreign direct investment not only brings capital but also know-how and new technologies, which require experts and specialists from abroad–a great opportunity for foreign engineers, technicians, and specialists to find work in Brazil.
Brazil is an important trading partner for North America, but the relations between the U.S. and Brazil are not just limited to trade, natural resources, and biofuels. There are active collaborations between U.S and Brazilian universities, institutions, and companies on research projects, as well as between cultural, religious and non-profit organizations. So, in addition to job opportunities with multinational corporations there are also opportunities for research and teaching positions at institutions of higher education. The U.S. is currently the second largest investor in Brazil after China. As more American companies and organizations operate in Brazil or collaborate with Brazilian businesses and institutions, there is also a growing demand for a workforce with experience in international business practices, which Brazilian employees often do not have. So while on one hand Brazil’s growing globalization leads to many overseas work opportunities for Brazilians, there are also a growing number of professional job opportunities for foreigners in Brazil.
In addition to a strong manufacturing, mining and petroleum sector, Brazil also has a diverse and well-developed services industry. Information and Communication Technology is the fastest-growing and largest sector, followed by banking, energy, and commerce. With Brazil’s finance sector playing a larger role globally than ever before, there is a demand for financial specialists with global and international business experience, especially since many financial firms operating in Brazil are multinational corporations.
Economic Outlook and Trends
The economic outlook for Brazil is very positive. The economy is expected to continue growing, although a little slower than the 7.2% forecast for 2010. Inflation is expected to be low, and unemployment will most likely decline further. Brazil’s finances are also expected to improve further with large foreign currency reserves, a large budget surplus and a large trade surplus. Credit to businesses is also expected to expand further, giving Brazilian companies the financial tools they need for expansion and innovation. Under the current stable conditions, Brazil’s businesses are expected to continue to grow and expand, creating new jobs both in the manufacturing and fast-growing services sectors. What this means for foreign employees with temporary work permits is that they are likely to keep their employment for the duration of their work contract, and that they may even be offered a contract extension should the positive economic conditions persist over the next few years.
Brazil and the Global Market
According to the Global Competitiveness Report published annually by the World Economic Forum, Brazil continues to improve its ranking, from 72nd position in 2007-2008 to 64th positions in 2008-2009 and 58th position in 2010-2011. This is in part due to better managed public finances and small policy changes that help Brazilian businesses become more competitive on a global scale. The ability to absorb new technologies, Brazil’s own innovative domestic business climate, and increasingly sophisticated financial markets has also contributed to the improved ranking. Another positive factor is Brazil’s large and growing domestic market, which is already the tenth largest in the world.
Where Brazil ranks consistently low in the Global Competitiveness Report and other surveys is in education and the training of its work force. Brazil’s work force is characterized by a low level of education and specialization, and great regional differences. According to a recent New York Times article, the World Bank concluded in a 2008 report (“Knowledge and Innovation for Competitiveness in Brazil”) that Brazil’s current level of education is not sufficient in an era of global competition and that Brazil is likely to fall further behind. In the latest Global Competitiveness Report, Brazil only ranks 76th in tertiary education: only 25 % of the college-age population is enrolled in universities and colleges. In addition, the quality of math and science education remains low: Brazil ranks 117th out of 134 surveyed countries. President Lula began an ambitious education reform program in 2007, but it will be years before a significant improvement will be noticeable among high school graduates.
Although the lack of a well-educated work force will dampen Brazil’s near-term growth potential, the ongoing demand for educated personnel offers opportunities for skilled foreign professionals interested in working in Brazil. As more American and multinational companies and organizations operate in Brazil, there is growth in the demand for American and international employees. Having professional skills that are in great demand and that are not commonly found are the best way to get a job offer from a company in Brazil. The most common jobs available to foreigners are upper management positions at multinational companies and a number of other fields that require special skills that are hard to find in Brazil, such as computer science and information technology. Brazil also has a shortage of scientists and engineers (Brazil ranks 57th in availability of scientists and engineers in the Global Competitiveness Report), which provides additional work opportunities for foreign experts. Unfortunately, Brazil does not have an occupational shortage lists (occupations that are in high demand) as many other countries do. Instead, the merit of a work permit for a foreigner is assessed by the labor department and the immigration authorities on an individual basis as needed, which is a quite bureaucratic and time-consuming process.
Work Opportunities for Foreigners
Most expatriates find employment in the large urban centers in Southeastern and Southern Brazil. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, and Porto Alegre all have a significant foreign population. Brasília also has a large foreign population, but most work for embassies and foreign missions. The majority of foreigners hired from abroad work in middle/upper management and executive positions, but Brazil is so vast and its economic activities so diverse that foreigners are found in virtually every field of activity. For example, I met an engineer deep in the Amazon who had been working there for two years building diesel generators for the town’s electric supply. Other foreigners I met worked as English teachers, executive assistants, wait staff, and other jobs. So one’s skill level, education, and experience should not deter anyone from looking for a job in Brazil. Keep in mind though that only professions on the upper end of the scale are being paid wages comparable to those in the U.S. and Europe. The engineer in the Amazon was working for a Texas-based company and his salary was paid in U.S. dollars, but if you are hired by a Brazilian company and are paid in the local currency, you will most likely have to expect a pay cut.
But despite the shortage of skilled labor in a number of fields and economic sectors, getting a work permit for Brazil is not easy, since strict labor laws require that employers always give preference to qualified local candidates where available. Even if you are approved for a work permit, there is no guarantee it will be renewed when it expires.
Part 2 of this article will explore the various work options and opportunities for foreigners in Brazil and shed light on the visa application process and other bureaucratic procedures.