The Brazilian labour market

The Brazilian labour market
Updated 2022-03-25 07:49

In recent years, Brazil suffered through an economic recession and a government austerity program. Still, Brazil possesses the world's 12th-largest economy, so there are jobs for those who qualify. Foreigners wishing to work in Brazil will need to have skills not readily available within Brazil. Also, many jobs will require at least a working knowledge of Portuguese. Another route, if you don't possess an in-demand skill set, is to seek permanent residency, which will grant you the right to work legally in Brazil.


A non-Brazilian wishing to work legally in Brazil will first need to obtain a work visa. This requires the submission of a signed work contract and several other documents with the Ministry of Labor and Employment (Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego) by the employer.

Brazilian law requires companies to hire Brazilians first whenever possible and to prove that a competent Brazilian couldn't be found before hiring a foreigner. Because of the costs and bureaucracy involved in the process, Brazilian companies tend to shy away from hiring foreigners. However, there are industries where the hiring of foreigners is common, and multinationals operating in Brazil may be viable options.

Because of the difficulties involved in securing work legally, many foreigners work “'off the books” in Brazil. Illegal workers often must accept a lower wage than legal workers, and won't receive benefits, such as health insurance. Also, should there be any dispute with the employer, the illegal worker will have no practical recourse.

Sectors and cities with potential

Historically, Brazil's economy has depended principally on agriculture and mining. Today there's also a growing manufacturing sector, in which the aerospace, automobile, and food processing and beverage industries feature prominently. Tourism and real estate development are large components in some geographical areas. Large petroleum and natural gas reserves also exist off Brazil's southeastern coast, spurring exploration, extraction, and refining. Finance and telecommunications are growth sectors, and investment is being made in aerospace, nanotechnology, healthcare, and energy research. Opportunities are also available in ethanol production and deepwater oil exploration.

Job opportunities for foreigners in Brazil exist principally for well-educated individuals in technical fields. Professionals in engineering, environmental management, and information technology may find work in Brazil. The development of offshore oil extraction has also created jobs for those with oil platform experience. Medical professionals are also in short supply in many areas.


Many jobs will require at least a working knowledge of Portuguese, as will day-to-day life in Brazil.

Another route for those with a background in education is to apply through international schools. These are private (often church-affiliated) primary and secondary schools that provide an international baccalaureate education to the children of the well-to-do. Native English speakers are often sought after as the teaching staff. Teachers must generally be board-certified and have a minimum of two years of experience. These schools are located in several of Brazil's largest cities.

Brazil doesn't offer any government-sponsored programs to recruit native English speakers to teach English or assist in public school classrooms, unlike many other countries. While a native level of English is an asset, it's unlikely to qualify you for a work visa, although some language schools may be willing to sponsor native speakers.

Major companies in Brazil include: Itaú Unibaco Holding, Banco Bradesco, Banco de Brasil (regional banks), Vale (iron and steel), Petrobras (oil and gas operations), JBS, BRF (food processing), Itaúsa (conglomerates), and Ultrapar Participacoes (oil and gas operations).

Most high-paying jobs in Brazil are white-collar, and these exist principally in the state capitals and a few other large cities, notably in the state of São Paulo. Opportunities outside of the larger cities are quite limited, with the notable exception of offshore oil rigs.

Looking for work

For professional jobs, you'll typically do better beginning your search from your home country, and in any case, you'll need to do part of the work visa application from there. You can apply with multinationals who do business in Brazil; you may want to check listings for the 20 largest multinationals operating in Brazil to improve your chances. Jobs may also be found through job-search sites that include listings in Brazil. Also, consider getting a free CV review at TopCV.

Those who want to stay in Brazil and work, but can't manage to secure a work visa, can look into the possibility of obtaining a permanent visa, which grants a foreigner the right to work legally in Brazil. See our article regarding work visas in Brazil to learn more.

Useful links:

Permanent visas

Job opportunities

Large companies in Brazil

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