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The Minimum Wage Campaign in Brazil and the Fight against Inequality


  • Frederico Luiz Barbosa de Melo DIEESE



This article summarises the Brazilian experience on the minimum wage campaign and the results and challenges brought by the increase in real value of the minimum wage. In 2005 and 2006, the minimum wage in Brazil underwent significant increases, and in 2006 an agreement about a long-term process to elevate its purchasing power was established between the government and the labour union centrals; in 2011 the agreement became law, defining the per cent of adjustment and real increase until 1 January 2015, and this year the law will have to be reviewed. In the last decade, Brazilian income inequality diminished, and the gains of the minimum wage seem to have an effective role in this process. After describing briefly the trajectory and legislation of the minimum wage in Brazil, the article shows how many individuals receive the equivalent of one minimum wage, either in the labour market or as a social security benefit. Some data about the wage distribution and inequality are also presented and discussed. The process of increase of the purchasing power of the minimum wage is now at risk insofar as the economy slows down since, according to the law, its gain is determined by GDP growth. Other difficulties are set by the impacts of the increase of the minimum wage over social security expenditures. The high concentration of salaries between 1 and 1.5 minimum wage and the current value of 43.4% to the proportion between the minimum wage and the median wage of full-time workers signals a stronger resistance against the long-term improvement of the minimum wage in Brazil.