Is the Window of Opportunity Closing for Brazilian Youth? Labor Market Trends and Business Cycle Effects

Brazilian youth today face enormous difficulties in penetrating the labor market, a situation much different from the one 25 years ago. While females have entered the labor market and increased their employment rate many are unemployed. Youth unemployment reached 19.1 percent in 2002; up from 4.5 percent in 1978. This paper analyzes long-run trends, as well as the impact of business cycles, on Brazilian youth in the labor market. To do this, the paper uses Brazilian household data (PNAD) spanning 1978-2002 and covering 290,000-530,000 individuals per year. Two main findings are presented: first, the labor market situation for youth has deteriorated and did especially so in the 1990s. In particular, labor force participation and employment have been decreasing relatively more for youth than for adults, but also wages decreased and unemployment increased for youth. Second, Brazilian youth were adversely impacted by business cycle fluctuations. During recessions youth lost ground compared to adults in the labor market in terms of labor force participation, employment, and to some extent unemployment. During expansions youth did not catch up on adults; in fact, the gap continued to widen.