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Brazilian authorities have only recently embarked on affirmative measures to redress many years of racist policies that led to limited access to jobs by the country’s large black population. Whether these initiatives will succeed remains to be seen

The main purpose of this article is to reflect on employment and racial policies in Brazil, focussing on the social sphere, taking into consideration the experiences of the “Seal of Diversity” (Selo da Diversidade) and PLANSEQ Afro-descendente, in force in the Municipality of Salvador, Bahia State, since the second semester of 2008.

The emphasis on these policies, suggested and created to meet the need for generating employment and income for the population of African descent, arose from the strong involvement of the late Dr Edialeda Salgado Nascimento (the first black woman to occupy the post of Secretary of State in Brazil) [1], the main spokesperson for the introduction of such policies in Brazilian society.

Discussion of employment and income for the population of African origin in Brazil is a somewhat delicate subject because the Brazilian states upheld official slavery for several centuries, thereby marking, socially and historically, a whole people with the stigma of the slave - the person who works without the right to be paid as compensation.

This fact pursues the slave population until the present day; in the search for employment the stigma of appearance has been an obstacle throughout centuries of disregard and inferior treatment for the black population, ranging from racially-defined disentitlement to demonization of cultural practices.

The behaviour of the State towards people of African descent forced them into lowly positions in the social division of labour, justified on the basis of their poor level of schooling, their poverty, or their living in the most discriminated-against areas of the cities.

Since the institution of Federal Constitution of Brazil of 1988, the Brazilian State has begun a process of reparation, through recognition of the indices of historical injustices caused to the black population, starting with Law 7.716/88, the famous Caó Law, which defined racism as a crime ineligible for bail. It was further developed through Laws 10.639/03 and 11.645/08, Decree 6.040/2007, the creation of municipal and state secretaries and a ministry, and through the Statute of Racial Equality.

Against this background of measures and policies for the inclusion of Afro-Brazilian peoples, public policies of Affirmative Action [2] have been created, aiming at the positive inclusion of Afro-Brazilians of both sexes in the world of work.

As previously mentioned, this paper intends to focus on the experiences of the “Seal of Diversity” and PLANSEQ Afro-descendente, and we will therefore describe the beginnings of these employment and incomes policies.

PLANSEQ Afro-descendente was born out of PLANSEQ (the Sectorial Qualification Plan) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment of Brazil. These plans are directed at meeting, in a transversal and concerted way, the emergency, structural and/or sectorial demands for qualifications, identified from initiatives of government, unions, companies or society, which the federal or municipal bodies could not have foreseen during the preparation of their Territorial (area-based) Qualification Plans – PlanTeQ’s.

In 2008 a group of Afro-Brazilian leaders started a process of sending requests to the Ministry of Labour and Employment for the creation of a Sectorial Qualification Plan for the Afro-Brazilian population. In the same year, the Commission for Combat of Discrimination of the Ministry of Labour and Employment was set up. In 2009, the first consultative session for the approval of the first PLANSEQ Afro-descendente took place in Brasilia with the participation of several Brazilian artists, such as Mateus Aleluia, and of national, regional and local leaders, as the first step in the establishment of the plan.

In Salvador the first PLANSEQ was organised in 2010 by SECTI (the Secretariat for Science and Technology) for the qualification of people of African descent for the labour market, with a specific focus on issues requiring mobilization of the Black population.

When discussing PLANSEQ Afro-descendente, the experience of the Seal of Diversity in the city of Salvador should also be noted. The start of this policy was marked by conflict, with the demolition of the Onipó Neto religious temple of the African Nations on Jorge Amado Avenue in Imbui, Salvador Municipality, and the undue taxation of the Casa Branca, one of the oldest religious temples in Brazil.

The Seal of Ethnic-Racial Diversity is a policy with the objective of integrating black men and women in the labour market. Firms which join the Seal agree to carry out an ethnic and racial census and also to make proposals for actions to overcome the under-representation of African-Brazilians at various levels in their hierarchy.

Before they can be implemented, these actions must be agreed by a management committee made up of organisations representing the government, the private sector and civil society. The Seal is valid for one year and during this period the firm must fulfil the work plan which it agreed to when joining the Seal.

The Seal of Ethno-Racial Diversity in the Labour Market was established under Decree no. 17.918 of 12 November, 2007, as an initiative aiming to publicly recognise actions to promote racial equality in human resource policies in companies in the public, private and third sectors in the city of Salvador.

By obtaining the Seal, the companies are undertaking to carry out actions to combat racism in the working environment, presenting proposals which will be analysed by the Management Committee, made up of representatives of the government sector and civil society.

The Seal of Ethnic-Racial Diversity is an example of a policy for building institutional awareness for promotion of diversity as a value which engenders competitiveness, and generation and distribution of income in society.

The intention of the Seal is very positive. However, there are still structural limitations to its progress, and guaranteeing the integration of people of African descent in society is still considered a challenge of this day.

Initiatives such as PLANSEQ Afro-descendente and the Seal of Diversity are clearly in the vanguard of policies for the inclusion of people of African descent in the world of work. In order for the effective implementation of a process of reparation for this segment of the population, these initiatives need greater visibility and investment on the part of the State.

Affirmative actions also need greater objectivity so that, as a whole, they can specifically guarantee the effectiveness of inclusion of the population of African descent, in the cities and in citizenship.

[1] An obstetrician, she was Secretary for Social Action of the State of Rio de Janeiro during the 1980s.
[2] A public policy of special preference, aiming to provide access to power, prestige and wealth for members of a historically discriminated group. Also known in India as compensatory action. Through the CF (Federal Constitution of Brazil of 1988), this practice guarantees places in parliament, the state legislatures and the civil service for historically-disadvantaged groups and tribes. In the United States, these principles were first introduced in 1964. The name was given to an initiative of black movements in several countries whose purpose was to obtain recompense for all peoples affected by European slavery, equivalent to the amount of damage they suffered.

* Sandro dos Santos Correia, a geographer and lecturer at UNEB was, in 2008 secretary for reparations in the City of Salvador. Jorge Luis dos Santos is a lawyer specialising in labour law and is co-ordinator at the Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation of the State of Bahia (SECTI). He was Chief Advisor in the Secretariat for Reparations of the City of Salvador in 2008.

*This article was translated from Portuguese for Pambazuka News by Charlotte Allen.



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