- Download our Moving to Brazil Guide (PDF)
With exotic rainforests, picturesque beaches and world-class football teams, Brazil continues to attract expats the world over. Brazil boasts one of the world's most ethnically diverse populations and is home to many nationalities.
Below is some useful information about diversity and inclusion in Brazil.
Accessibility in Brazil
As is the case with many developing countries, Brazil has a long way to go in terms of expanding its accessibility infrastructure. Still, the country is continuously striving to make progress. In 1988, Brazil's Constitution was amended to guarantee the rights of people living with disabilities.
The government also passed the Disabled Persons Inclusion Act in 2015, which stated that a certain percentage of homes built with government resources and public spaces, such as hotels, must have accessibility accommodations.
With more than 45 million people living with disabilities in Brazil, public transport accessibility in the country's major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, is largely inadequate, but the government is constantly making improvements. Sao Paulo is home to accessible subways and buses, while Rio de Janeiro has both visual and motor accessibility resources in the form of subway and bus lifts as well as tactile floors for visually impaired passengers.
The rural areas of Brazil, particularly in the Amazon Basin, are largely inaccessible. Fortunately, private companies specialising in transporting people with special mobility needs are available. Some of the museums and beaches in Rio de Janeiro are equipped with ramps, making it possible for people living with disabilities to explore some of Brazil's exquisite cultural and lifestyle offerings.
LGBTQ+ in Brazil
Brazil is known for having some of the best LGBTQ+ legal protections in the world. Same-sex marriage and adoption have been legal for more than a decade, while conversion therapy is banned in the country. As Brazil is home to the highest concentration of Roman Catholics in the world, social acceptance of people who identify as LGBTQ+ in the country lags far behind its legal protections.
For several years running, Brazil has been the trans murder capital of the world, with 125 anti-trans homicides reported in Brazil out of 375 worldwide. This can be attributed to systemic homophobia. A 2021 report by the Brazilian Institute of Transmasculinities (Ibrat) and the UN Race and Equality Institute and Trans Magazine found that almost 86 percent of respondents felt that the public system harboured transphobic attitudes towards them.
While progress in the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people may be slow, it is still there. In October 2022, Brazil elected its first two transgender women to its National Congress, signifying that the Brazilian people's attitudes towards people who identify as LGBTQ+ are changing.
As a country with a large geographic mass, Brazil is diverse, and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals vary throughout the country. LGBTQ+ individuals moving inland and to small towns should avoid public displays of affection, as this may lead to some unwanted attention from locals. Still, the east coast of the country boasts a lively LGBT+ social scene, while Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro host annual pride celebrations and have many LGBT-friendly spots sprinkled throughout the cities.
Gender equality in Brazil
Equality between women and men was enshrined in Brazil's Constitution in 1988, with women receiving universal suffrage much earlier in 1934. According to UN Women, almost 90 percent of women of reproductive age in Brazil have access to family planning services. The country also has protections for violence against women.
Brazil ranked 78th out of 144 countries evaluated in the 2022 Equal Measures 2030 (EM2030) SDG Gender Index, putting the country in the bottom half for gender equality worldwide. Additionally, Brazil has the fifth highest number of child marriages in the world, while teenage pregnancy is also rife. This in turn affects the employment of women, as many of them have to bear childcare and housework duties.
In the workplace, things are not much better for Brazilian women. The country has one of the highest gender pay gaps in the world at 22 percent, while many women also face the threat of sexual harassment and assault at work. Expectant mothers who have been employed for three months or longer are entitled to four months of maternity leave, and this can be extended by two weeks on doctor's orders. Fathers are permitted five paid days of parental leave following the birth of a child, leaving much of the child-rearing to women.
Be that as it may, Brazil's current administration is working towards addressing gender disparities in the country. The newly elected president has re-established the Ministry of Women following its dissolution in the previous administration. The Ministry of Labour enacted a law in 2023 mandating annual training to prevent sexual harassment at all hierarchical levels in workplaces. The government also proposed a bill to reduce the gender pay gap on International Women's Day in 2023.
Women in leadership in Brazil
While Brazil may have been one of the few Latin American countries to elect a female president in its history, the representation of women in leadership positions in Brazil is lacking. As of the 2022 national elections, women represent only 18 percent of Brazil's Congress, occupying 91 seats out of a possible 513. According to the Brazilian Institute of Corporate Governance's (IBGC) 2022 study, women held 15.2 percent of board and executive positions in 389 of Brazil's listed companies.
Of the 389 companies surveyed, 17.5 percent had no women listed on their board of directors, signalling a severe lack of diversity in Brazil's company boards. Although Brazil currently has no mandates or legislation to increase the representation of women in board leadership positions, electoral law states that a minimum of 30 percent of candidates should be women for the lower house and sub-national levels.
Mental health awareness in Brazil
Owing to the unfamiliarity and loneliness that can sometimes come with moving to a new country, expats are at a higher risk for mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. The World Population Review ranked Brazil as the country with the 5th highest prevalence of depression. Expats moving to Brazil should ensure they familiarise themselves with their local mental healthcare services.
One of the contributing factors to the country's dire mental health situation is the fact there is a stigma against seeking help for mental health disorders. Brazilians value seeking medical treatment for physical ailments rather than mental health issues. Workplaces in the country also reward overwork, particularly in major metropolises such as Sao Paulo, where competition for jobs is fierce. This can often lead to one spending less time with family and friends, resulting in a decline in mental health.
The Brazilian government has made strides in improving access to mental health services. In the late 1990s, Brazil set out to reform its mental healthcare from a centralised psychiatric system to community-based services. The country has since then halved the number of psychiatric facility beds available and increased funding to community-based services that allow patients to engage in therapeutic workshops, family assistance and sports activities.
There are also non-profit and federal organisations like the Center for Valuing Life (CVV) that offer resources for those in crisis and those needing general mental health resources.
Unconscious bias training in Brazil
Stoked by the former far-right president, racial tensions in Brazil remain high, with black Brazilians still facing issues created by colonial-era discrimination. With this in mind, unconscious bias training becomes critical for those looking to work and live in Brazil.
The concept of unconscious bias is an implicit set of social stereotypes an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These stereotypes are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold these unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're frequently inaccurate and based on assumptions.
Brazil is home to the largest population of black people outside of Africa, yet Afro-Brazilians occupy only 26 percent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Afro-Brazilians also earn 75.7 percent less than white Brazilians, as found by a 2021 study by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.
Therefore, it's important to note that unconscious bias can greatly affect workplace dynamics and have an impact on the opportunities available to certain groups of people, which could affect a company's talent acquisition and turnover rates.
Some companies, especially multinational corporations, have started offering unconscious bias training to assist their employees with recognising and ultimately overcoming their biases. There are also online resources that can be used to improve one's recognition of unconscious bias in themselves and others.
Diversification in the workplace in Brazil
Brazilian society is one of the most diverse, with strong indigenous roots tied together by African and Portuguese traditions. From the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches to the Amazon Basin, Brazil is a country with striking natural landscapes that have served to attract many an expat, with 1.3 million calling the country home.
The workplace in Brazil is highly diversified, and many local as well as multinational companies employ people of many nationalities. Brazilians are generally receptive and welcoming of expats, but non-white foreigners and those from African countries may experience some discrimination.
While systemic racism and exclusion remain widespread in Brazil, some companies in the country are beginning to prioritise diversity. More than 90 companies signed an open letter addressed to the 2022 presidential candidates to advocate for including LGBTQI+ individuals in the workplace. The new president has also signed several affirmative action decrees to increase the representation of marginalised groups in Congress, universities and companies.
Safety in Brazil
The 2023 Global Peace Index ranked Brazil 132nd out of 163 countries, with a peace score of 2.46 out of a possible 5. New arrivals to Brazil will need to be cautious and keep their valuables out of sight as pickpocketing, muggings, robberies and kidnappings are common.
As a country with extreme levels of income inequality, Brazil has a high crime rate and violent crimes such as homicides are unfortunately fairly common. This is primarily concentrated in the favelas but can happen anywhere in the country. Fortunately, Brazil's favelas are undergoing rehabilitation, and there is an increased focus on security.
Another potential safety hazard new arrivals should be cautious of is driving in Brazil. Drivers in the country are known for being aggressive, which could be jarring for expats from some countries. Expats can use public transport in Brazil's major cities, as this is a much safer and more convenient option.
Calendar initiatives in Brazil
January – Mental Health Awareness Month
4 February – World Cancer Day
8 March – International Women's Day
24 March – World TB Day
2 April – World Autism Awareness Day
19 April – Indigenous Peoples Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
8 October –World Mental Health Day
20 November – History of Black Consciousness Day
1 December – World AIDS Day
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