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"Estudos Avançados" #98 analyzes labor precariousness and transformations

by Richard Meckien - published May 08, 2020 02:40 PM - - last modified May 26, 2020 01:18 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Mauro Bellesa.

Capa de "Estudos Avançados" 98

At a time of marked reduction in the possibility of work for a large number of workers as a result of restrictions on displacement and public contact due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 98th issue of the journal Estudos Avançados, released this month, discusses two themes already problematic in Brazil before the pandemic: the still little recognition of care work, which is essential in view of the aging population, and the characteristics and impacts of new forms of work, including on workers' health. The online version (Portuguese only) is available at SciELO.

The content of the issue was defined before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic caused by the international spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Thus, rigorous analyses are not presented, as they could not have been produced in the early stages of the outbreak.

However, the issues addressed in the dossiers deserve extra attention as they are among those for which society must seek answers in the post-pandemic period in order to ensure decent and equal work for everyone, in addition to rights and health protection.

In "Work, Gender, and Care", the first dossier, care for people is analyzed in its various forms. An example is when care occurs as "help," without being characterized as a professional activity or as a parental obligation. The topic is discussed by sociologists Nadya Araujo Guimarães, a senior professor at USP's Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences (FFLCH), and Priscila Pereira Faria Vieira, a researcher at the Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP).

Helena Hirata, former visiting professor at the IEA and director emeritus of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), addresses the main points of convergence and divergence in the activity of elderly caregivers in Brazil, Japan, and France, without neglecting the centrality of women in this work. The objective is to demonstrate how gender, race, and social class help to build the professional and personal trajectories of caregivers.

In the article "Care and Responsibility," Natacha Borgeaud-Garciandía discusses the work of immigrant caregivers for the elderly in Buenos Aires. A researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), Borgeaud-Garciandía focuses on responsibility as the assumption of a moral obligation towards a vulnerable person. One of the addressed aspects is the role of responsibility in the complexity of the caregivers' exploitation plots within the framework of unequal power relations.

The legal treatment of care in Brazil and public policies aimed at the socialization of social reproduction activities fall short of social demands, according to Regina Stela Corrêa Vieira, a researcher at CEBRAP and a professor of the graduate program in Law at the University of West Santa Catarina (UNOESC). To her, labor law, which "historically ignores or neglects domestic work, whether paid or unpaid," has made some progress such as the Constitutional Amendment 72/2013 and the ratification of Convention C189 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), but currently sees labor reform as a "threat to the hard-won rights of domestic workers."

The struggle of these female workers for the enhancement of their professional activity is also analyzed in an article by Louisa Acciari, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), and Tatiane Pinto, from the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ), who discuss informal negotiations with employers and union mobilization in the category. They propose a redefinition of the concept of work with the full inclusion of care work, something "indispensable to guarantee the dignity and equal rights."

Labor precariousness

The discussion on the lack of rights and dignity in the context of caregivers and domestic employees in general is extended in the second dossier of the isssue to address the characteristics and impacts of the transformations underway in the world of work, including health.

In his article, sanitary professional René Mendes, a collaborating researcher at the IEA, summarizes the concerns that led him to propose the development of the research project "Impacts of the New Morphologies of Contemporary Work on Life, Sickness, and Death."

Mendes starts from the perceptions of existing studies on the problem mainly carried out from a sociological perspective, but seeks to deepen the reflections on the nature and complexity of the pathogenesis mechanisms of the new morphologies of work on the workers' life and health from the perspective of social epidemiology.

One of these new forms of work is the "uberization," subject of the article by Ludmila Costhek Abílio, a researcher at the University of Campinas's Center for Union Studies and Labor Economics (CESIT-UNICAMP). Her study is based on empirical research with cosmetic dealers and motorcycle drivers, and on secondary data on Uber drivers and the so-called bike boys.

Abílio's analysis considers two theses: 1) uberization is an ongoing global trend to consolidate the worker as an available subordinate self-manager defined as a just-in-time worker devoid of guarantees and rights; 2) companies present themselves as mediators, when they actually operate forms of subordination and work control, in what can be called algorithmic work management.

The third article in the dossier, authored by sociologist Clemente Ganz Lúcio, a technician at the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies (DIEESE), presents a brief history and the current context of the debates on union reform and the system of labor relations in the National Congress and in the Federal Government. Lúcio points out that countless aspects of the world of work have undergone changes, such as jobs, occupations, labor dynamics, forms of hiring, working hours, and working conditions, among others.

For him, some guidelines should be considered in these changes. One of them is the development of an autonomous and effective system of self-regulation between workers and employers, which supports the union's restructuring of the labor relations system and resolves conflicts through instruments created by the parties.

Bioeconomics, energy, and vegetation

Themes related to the environment and sustainable development have had a regular presence throughout the journal's 33 years, and are present in this issue in three articles. André Luiz Willerding, a biotechnologist at the Amazonas State Secretariat for Economic Development, Science, Technology, and Innovation (SEDECTI), and five other researchers from SEDECTI an Amazonas State University, present an overview of the state's reality regarding the development of bioeconomy strongly linked to the potential of natural resources. According to the authors, the discussion on this theme goes against the search for alternatives for the state's economy, still centralized around the Manaus Industrial Pole, which "becomes increasingly threatened year after year."

Another region addressed in this section is the Brazilian Northeast, in an article on the importance of integrating social, economic, and environmental policies around the supply of energy to the semiarid region. Based on the food-water-energy nexus, which seeks to examine the interrelationships of these three essential components of environmental and human quality, Marcel Burztyn, from University of Brasília's Center for Sustainable Development (CDS-UnB), proposes the promotion of photovoltaic energy generation by family farmers.

When studying issues such as the degree of complexity and diversification of the Brazilian landscape, it must be taken into account that a landscape may be the result of recent environmental changes or relics of much more remote conditions. This is what geologists Daniel Meira Arruda, from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), and Carlos Ernesto Gonçalves Rynaud Schaefer, from the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV), point out in another article. They discuss the biogeographic theories formulated and modified over the past 60 years of studies on the reconstruction of Brazil's vegetation under the impact of the climatic changes of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), which occurred 18,000 years ago. According to both researchers, the recent advance of global climate models has provided new perspectives for a more faithful reconstruction of the conditions of that period.

Literature and other cultural themes

The "Culture" section brings texts about works by writers Samuel Beckett, José de Alencar and Murilo Mendes, and about the costumes of the Brazilian Indians during the time of Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen's government (1637-1644) during the Dutch occupation in the country's Northeast. The set of articles also includes "The Impediments of Memory," by Jeanne Marie Gagnebin, and "Ideological Automata," by Benhur Bortolotto.

Estudos Avançados #98 also presents tributes for the ten years since the death of Portuguese writer José Saramago, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature. There are three articles on some aspects of the author's work written by Jaime Bertoluci, Marcelo Lachat, and Jean-Pierre Chauvin.

Finally, the edition includes reviews of five books: "Reflection as Resistance: Homage to Alfredo Bosi," organized by Augusto Massi, Erwin Torralbo Gimenez, Marcus Vinicius Mazzari, and Murilo Marcondes de Moura; "The French School of Geography: a Contextual Approach," by Vincent Berdoulay; "The Double Night of Linden Trees," by Marcus Vinicius Mazzari; "Historia von D. Johann Fausten," translated, organized, and commented by Magali Moura; and "The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus," by Christopher Marlowe, with translation and notes by Luís Bueno and Caetano Waldrigues Galindo.

The list below contains the names of the authors who have contributed with each one of the addressed themes:

Work, Gender, and Care

Nadya Araujo Guimarães and Priscila Pereira Faria Vieira
Helena Hirata
Natacha Borgeaud-Garciandía
Regina Stela Corrêa Vieira
Louisa Acciari and Tatiane Pinto

Labor Issues

René Mendes
Ludmila Costhek Abílio
Clemente Ganz Lúcio

Environment and Development

André Luis Willerding, Leonardo Rodrigo da Silva, Roseana Pereira da Silva, Geison Maicon Oliveira de Assis, and Estevão Vicente Cavalcanti Monteiro de Paula
Marcel Bursztyn
Daniel Meira Arruda and Carlos Ernesto Gonçalves Reynaud Schaefer


Jeanne Marie Gagnebin
Luciano Gatti
Fabiano Lemos and Ulysses Pinheiro
Pablo Simpson
Aline Leal Fernandes Barbosa
Benhur Bortolotto
Fausto Viana

José Saramago: Themes and Languages

Jaime Bertoluci
Marcelo Lachat
Jean Pierre Chauvin


Alexandre Koji Shiguehara
Nilson Cortez Crocia de Barros
Klaus F. W. Eggensperger
Rafael Rocca dos Santos