Despite increasing employment, union membership trends down in Brazil in 2019
August 26, 2020 10h00 AM | Last Updated: October 14, 2020 01h12 PM
In 2019, 11.2% (or 10.6 million) workers in the country were union members, with a rate below that of 2018 (12.5% or 11.5 million).
The decrease was registered despite the increase of 2.5% in the employed population, which is estimated at 94.6 million persons in 2019, (versus 92.3 million in 2018). The latest increase of the union membership rate took place in 2013.
The Northeast and the Southeast Regions (12.8% and 12.3%) had the highest rates, whereas the North (8.9%) and Central West (8.6%), recorded the lowest ones. From 2012 to 2019, the number of union members in the country fell by 3.8 million, with a drop by 1.3 million persons in the Southeast.
The union membership rate was higher among men (11.4%) than women (10.9%) in all the Major Regions, except for the North: women (13.7%) and men (12.1%).
The activity of Agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishing and aquaculture, encompassing 9.1% of the employed population, reached the highest union membership rate (19.4%).
Union membership rates were the highest among workers with a formal contract in the private sector and workers in the public sector (including statutory ones, 14% and 22.5%, respectively.
In turn, workers without a formal contract in the private sector (4.5%) and domestic workers (2.8%) registered the lowest rates.
By level of schooling, the lowest union membership rate was that of employed persons with Complete elementary school and incomplete high school education (7.1%), and the highest, that of employed persons with Complete higher education (17.3%).
In 2019, approximately 29.3% of the employers or self-employed persons were in enterprises listed under the National Registry of Legal Entities (CNPJ) - a total 8.4 million persons. That was the lowest rate in the series (initiated in 2012) for the indicator.
In 2019, among the 28.8 million listed as employers or self-employed in their main activity, 5.2% (1.5 thousand) were members of a work or production cooperative. That was the lowest figure in the time series.
Regarding the employed population in the private sector in Brazil (76.7 million persons) worked, mainly, at establishments of their own enterprise (58.4%); at a place designated by the employer, boss or customer (14.2%); or at a farm or rural property (10.4%). This data is part of the annual Continuous PNAD: Additional Characteristics of the Labor Market.
Highest union membership rate is found in the Northeast, and the lowest, in the Central West
The employed population was estimated at 94.6 million persons, accounting for an increase of 2.5% against 2018 (92.3 million persons). A total 11.2% of them (10.6 million) were members of a union, being that a rate below the one in 2018 (12.5% or 11.5 million union members). The Northeast (12.8%) and South (12.3%) has the highest rates, and the North (8.9%) and Central West (8.6%), the lowest.
Since 2012, the number of union members has fallen by 3.8 million. A decrease is observed in spite of the expansion in employed persons recorded since 2017 (see the table below).
|Employed population, population affiliated to unions and union membership rate - Continuous 2012 to 2019|
|Affiliated to a union||14,403||14,615||14,592||14,576||13,502||13,070||11,518||10,567|
|Union membership rate||16.1||16.1||15.9||15.8||14.9||14.4||12.5||11.2|
Union membership registered a higher percentage among men (11.4%) than women (10.9%) – a pattern that has been observed since 2012, nevertheless, with gradual reduction of such difference. The Northeast Region is an exception: with 1.7% of women against 12.1% of men being union members.
All the five Major Regions recorded decreases in union membership figures between 2017 and 2018. The Northeast Region was the only exception – the decrease in 2019 (-7.6%) was bigger than in 2018 (-5.9%). In the Southeast, which had the highest absolute figure, decrease hit 7.1% (by 354 thousand persons) and the percentage fell to 10.8%.
The South had the highest percentage of employed persons in unions between 2012 and 2017. From 2018 on, the Northeast took over the leadership.
Agriculture now leads the ranking with a union membership rate of 19.4%
In 2019, the group of activity of Agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishing and aquaculture, which encompassed 9.1% of the employed population in the country, had the highest union membership rate (19.4%). The activity has an important participation of rural workers, many of them in family farming, mainly in the Northeast and South Regions.
On the other hand, Trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, which accounts for approximately 18.9% of the employed population, recorded a union membership rate of 7.4%, below the overall figure (11.2%). That way, it is observed that union coverage does not depend necessarily on the number of workers employed in a given economic activity.
Most of the groups remained on a downward trend as in 2018, but not as intense. The main exception was Public administration, defense and social security, education, health and social services, whose union membership fell in 2019 and stayed at 18.9%, as the group was out of the top position, for the first time.
Construction (4.2%), Lodging and Feeding (5.6%), Other services (4.8%) and Domestic services (2.8%) keep the lowest estimates. These activities have, among their characteristics, the smallest participation of workers with a formal contract, and, in the last few years, registered an increase in self-employed workers, whose union membership figures tend to be lower than that of the employed population.
General industry went from 15.2% to 13.5%, which is equivalent to a decrease by 150 thousand persons, despite an increase of the employed population by 380 thousand.
Table 2 – Union membership rate of persons aged 14 and over employed in the week of reference, by groups of activity in the main job - Brazil - 2012/2019
|Groups of activities in the main job||2012||2016||2017||2018||2019|
|Agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishing and aquaculture||23.2||22.4||21.1||19.1||19.4|
|Trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles||10.5||10.4||10.0||8.1||7.4|
|Transportation, storage and mailing||20.8||18.4||17.5||13.5||11.9|
|Lodging and feeding||7.7||7.6||6.8||5.7||5.6|
|Information, communication and finacial, real estate, professional and administrative activities||18.8||17.5||16.9||13.5||12.0|
|Public administration, defense and social security, education, human health and social services||24.8||23.7||23.6||22.0||18.4|
|Source: IBGE, Diretoria de Pesquisas, Coordenação de Trabalho e Rendimento, Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios Contínua 2012/2019. (1) Inclui atividades mal definidas|
Workers with a formal contract in the private sector and workers in the public sector (including statutory and civil servants) had the highest union membership rates, respectively 14% and 22.5%. On the other hand, workers without a formal contract in the private sector (4.5%) and domestic workers (2.8%) had the lowest coverages. In the case of auxiliary family workers (11.8%) the comparably not so low percentage may result from the high concentration of those workers in family farming, which accounts for an important share of union participation among rural workers.
From 2018 to 2019, the most significant decreases were those among workers without a formal contract in the private sector, from 16% to 14%; workers in the public sector (including statutory and civil servants), from 25.7% to 22.5% and employers, from 12.3% to 10.3%.
|Table 3 – Union membership rate of persons aged 14 and over employed in the week of reference, by employment type and job category in the main job - Brazil - 2012/2019|
|Posição na ocupação e categoria do emprego no trabalho principal||2012||2016||2017||2018||2019|
|Worker with a formal contract in the private sector||20.9||18.7||19.1||16.0||14.0|
|Worker without a formal contract in the private sector||5.4||5.7||5.1||4.5||4.5|
|Worker in the public sector (including statutory and civil servants)||28.4||27.5||27.3||25.7||22.5|
|Auxiliary family worker||14.7||14.7||11.5||11.9||11.8|
|Fonte: IBGE, Diretoria de Pesquisas, Coordenação de Trabalho e Rendimento, Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios Contínua 2012/2019.|
Level of schooling is higher among union members
In 2019, the union membership rate of employed persons with a higher education degree recorded its main decrease (from 20.3% to 17.3%) and, in comparison with 2012, when it was 28.4%, that drop was even steeper. The reduction of union membership rate at that level of schooling resulted from the significant increase in the number of employed persons with a higher education degree since 2012 (51.1%), without the corresponding increase of union membership of those persons. In spite of that, workers with a higher education degree make up the majority in unions, in proportional terms. The lowest rate was that of employed persons with complete elementary education school, 7.1%.
Against 2018, only the union membership rate of persons with no schooling and with incomplete elementary education remained stable (10.4%). At the other levels, there was decrease.
Number of employers of self-employed workers with a CNPJ registry is the highest in the time series
The number of employers or self-employed workers in enterprises with a CNPJ registry reached its peak in the time series in 2019: 8.4 million persons, or 29.3% of the employed ones.
In 2019, 20.1% of the employers had a CNPJ registry, but, among self-employed workers, coverage was 80.4%.
Considering the Major Regions, the North (12.1%) and Northeast (16.3%) had the lowest proportions of self-employed workers or employers with a CNPJ registry. On the other hand, the South Region had the highest percentage (41.5%).
Against 2018, the South had the main increase (from 39.8% to 41.5%); whereas in the North and Central West the recorded decreases were of 1.3 and 0.4 percentage points, respectively. In comparison with the 2012 figure, there was an increase by 2.7 million persons (47.5%). Among the Major Regions, the highlights are the South and Southeast, which, besides having the highest percentages, recorded the main advances in the estimate: 6.2 and 5.9 percentage terms, in this order.
|Table 5 - Rate of CNPJ coverage of employers or self-employed workers, by level of schooling - Brazil - 2012/2019|
|Employment type and level of schooling||2012||2018||2019|
|With no schooling and incomplete elementary education||7.2||9.0||10.0|
|Complete elementary education and incomplete high school education||13.2||15.5||16.0|
|Complete high school education and incomplete higher education||23.3||24.0||24.9|
|Without schooling and incomplete elementary education||49.6||52.9||55.8|
|Complete elementary education and incomplete high school education||69.7||72.6||75.8|
|Complete high school education and incomplete higher education||80.7||84.2||83.1|
|Source: IBGE, Diretoria de Pesquisas, Coordenação de Trabalho e Rendimento, Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios Contínua 2012/2019.|
Employers and self-employed workers made up 22.7% of Trade workers and 39.7% of those in Services. Both activities also had the highest coverage rates of CNPJ, 42.9% and 34.1%, respectively. General industry accounted for only 10.1% of employment among employers and self-employed persons, but recorded the third highest coverage rate in terms of CNPJ: 28.3%. In the second and third position were Agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishing and aquaculture (9.3%) and Construction (13.6%).
Against 2018, the group of Services was the only one not to record increase of CNPJ coverage, with a change from 34.7% to 34.1%. The main advances came from Agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishing and aquaculture (from 7.6% to 9.3%, but it remained with the lowest coverage) and General industry (from 26.8% to 28.3%). Against 2012, Construction increased 114.1%, amounting to total 533 thousand persons. Services also registered a significant increase, 66%, with a rise of its population to 3.9 million persons.
Among the 28.8 thousand employed persons listed as employers or self-employed workers as their main job, only 5.2% (1.5 thousand) were members of a work or production cooperative. The biggest proportion was observed in 2012 (6.4%).
Work from home was a reality for 6.0% of the employed population
In 2019, about 58.4% of the population employed in the country’s private sector (76.7 million persons) worked at their own enterprise. Although placed at the top position, this location is below its highest rate in the series (64.3%), in 2014.
From 2012 to 2019, most the participation figures recording increases came from the place designated by the employer, boss or customer (from 11.6% to 14.2%) and of the household of residence (from 3.7% to 6.0%, in the same period).
|Population employed in the private sector by place of work - Continuous PNAD 2012 to 2019|
|Place of work||Employed population in the private sector (thousand persons)|
|Farm or rural property||9,629||9,409||8,891||8,680||8,367||8,100||7,972||7,987|
|Establishment of one's own enterprise||44,960||46,368||47,905||47,743||46,757||46,384||44,537||44,823|
|Establishment of another one's enterprise||687||695||619||664||657||744||1.029||1.202|
|Place designated by the employer, boss or customer||8,391||8,994||9,059||9,130||8,952||9,159||10,063||10,896|
|Household of the employer, boss or customer||1,001||814||716||856||941||972||961||803|
|Household of residence||2,666||2,608||2,608||2,797||2,737||3,180||3,850||4,595|
|Participação no total da população ocupada no setor privado (%)|
|Farm or rural property||13.4||12.8||11.9||11.6||11.4||11.0||10.7||10.4|
|Establishment of one's own enterprise||62.4||63.0||64.3||63.9||63.7||63.1||59.8||58.4|
|Establishment of another one's enterprise||1.0||0.9||0.8||0.9||0,9||1.0||1.4||1.6|
|Place designated by the employer, boss or customer||11.6||12.2||12.2||12.2||12,2||12,5||13.5||14.2|
|Household of the employer, boss or customer||1.4||1.1||1.0||
|Household of residence||3.7||3.5||3.5||3.7||3.7||4,3||5.2||6.0|
In 2019, approximately 10.4% of the employed population in the country worked on a farm or rural property. That figure recorded a decrease: it was 13.4% in 2012. The North (17.3%) and Northeast (15.4%) recorded the highest percentages of persons working in those areas and the Southeast, the lowest (6.2%).