CHILD CARE NEEDS OF LW INCOME WOMEN: URBAN BRAZIL
by SONIA BITTENCOURT
Universidade Federal da Bahia
Salvador, Bahia Brazil
in collaboration with Emily DiCicco
Overseas Education Fund
of the League of Women Voters
CHILD CARE NEEDS OF LCW INCOME WOMEN: URBAN BRAZIL
by SONIA BITTENCOURT
Universidade Federal da Bahia
Salvador, Bahia Brazil
in collaboration with Emily DiCicco
Overseas Education Fund
of the League of Women Voters
OVERSEAS EDUCATION FUND
of the League of Women Voters
2101 L St.,N.W., Suite 916
Washington, D.C. 20037
This report is one of six country reports on the field research
findings and recommendations on Child Care Needs of Low Income Women in
Less Developed Countries. The project was undertaken to (a) identify
child care needs of low income families as an increasing number of women
participate in income production activities, (b) to seek child care
alternatives responsive to the child's socio-economic and cultural context.
Most women in less developed countries, especially in low income areas,
perform the dual role of household manager as well as income provider.
Women from low income families are farm laborers, domestic servants,
market vendors, factory workers and seamstresses for many hours a day, and
then perform necessary household tasks such as cooking, grinding grain,
washing clothes, fetching water, gathering firewood, and taking care of
children. Development programs have only recently started to look more
carefully at the specific needs of women in the many roles they play,
including that of 9_jriua.y_ dispenser..of health and nutrition care of the
In all societies children are cared for primarily by their mothers.
Other female members of a household may help when. necessary, as do some male
members depending upon cultural traditions. As the demands of economic
development increase, the need for more cash income to buy consumer goods
and services also increases. the demand for better incomes, rural to urban
migration, and the changing family structure are some of the factors which
have an impact on the type and quality of care that children (especially
those under five) receive in rural'and urban areas.
This report on child care-in Brazil contributes to discovering the
answers to such questions as:
(a) What are the current child care patterns of low income families?
(b) To what extent do women participate in income generation?
(c) What are the effects of child care alternatives on opportunities
for women to participate in the labor force?
(d) How is the nutritional status of children affected by the mother's
participation in the labor force, and how is it affected by child
(e) What are low income families' needs for child care and what
alternative solutions do they recommend to fill these needs?
The project's basic research design includes the following data
instruments: household survey, group discussion guide, literature search,
and interviews with policy makers and program planners in government,
domestic and international agencies. Details of the design as it was
adapted and implemented in Nordeste de Amaralina are found in the
methodology section in the appendix of this report.
In this project child care is defined as an integrated system of
S services for preschool age children including in health, nutrition and
education, and custodial care, which is responsive to the child's social,
v Leconomic and cultural context. These services are usually provided in the
absence of the mother while she is working or otherwise occupied. Work
is defined as income generating activities, in the home or outside, that
lead to income in cash and/or kind.
We are grateful to the Office of Nutrition, Agency for International
Development, for funding the project and for continuous commitment to it.*
We appreciate the cooperation extended by government officials, domestic
and international agency personnel and everyone who in one way or another
helped personally and professionally during the course of this study.
We are particularly indebted to Sonia Bittencourt for the collection of
case study data and the nutrition analysis. She was assisted by Dr. Fabiola
de Aguiar Nunes and several other persons residing and/or working in
Nordeste de Amaralina.
It is hoped that the findings of this study and the emerging recommenda-
tions will make a significant contribution towards policy and program
development to meet the needs identified by the low income families.
For the Overseas Education Fund:
Willie Campbell, President
Elise Smith, Executive Director
Emily DiCicco, Project Director and
Field Work Coordinator for Latin America
*The view and interpretations in this publication are those of the
authors and should not be attributed to the AID or any individual on its
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations . . ...
2 Country and Field Site Description. . . . 7
3 Labor Force Participation and Income. . . .. 17
4 Child Care. . . . . .. .... 31
5 Health and Nutrition of Children . . . .. 43
6 Community Organization and Participation . . .. 51
Appendix: Methodology of the Research. . . ... 53
Bibliography. . . . . . .. 63
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
2-1 Sample of Women According to Age Group, Nordeste de
Amaralina. . . . . ... . 13
2-2 Distribution of Children under 7 Years of Age, Nordeste
de Amaralina . . . . . 14
3-1 Forms of Productive Organization, Salvador 1970. . ... 20
3-2 Female Labor Force Participation and the Presence of
Children, Nordeste de Amaralina. . . . ... 20
3-3 Occupations of Women, Nordeste de Amaralina. . ... 21
3-4 Women's Reasons for Not Working, Nordeste de Amaralina 22
3-5 Work Location, According to Presence and Age of Children
in the Family, Nordeste de Amaralina . . ... 22
3-6 Work Location of Working Women According to the Number of
Children Younger than 7 Years, Nordeste de Amaralina . 23
3-7 Working Women with Children Younger than 7 Years According
to Hours Worked Outside the Home, Nordeste de Amaralina. 23
3-8 Working Women According to Period Worked Outside the Home,
Nordeste de Amaralina. . . . . ... 24
3-9 Persons Responsible for Domestic Tasks in the Homes of
Working Women, Nordeste de Amaralina . . . 24
3-10 Highest Educational Level Attained by Women, Nordeste de
Amaralina and Brazil . . . .... 26
4-1 Mothers' Satisfaction with the Care of Children, Nordeste
de Amaralina . . . . ... . 39
4-2 Suggestions Presented to Resolve the Care of Children Younger
than 7, Nordeste de Amaralina 1978 ..... . 40
5-1 Nutritional Status of Children, Nordeste de Amaralina ... 45
5-2 Nutritional Status of Children of Working Women by Hours of
Maternal Absence, Nordeste de Amaralina . . .. 46
5-3 Nutritional Status of Children of Working Women by Period of
Maternal Absence, Nordeste de Amaralina . . .. 46
5-4 Nutritional Status of Children of Working Women by Child Care
Arrangement, Nordeste de Amaralina . . . .. 47
2-1 Map of Brazil, Showing State of Bahia . . . 8
2-2 City of Salvador, Surrounding Cities, and Study Area of Nordeste
de Amaralina . . . . ... . 11
5-1 Nutritional Status of Children under 7 of Working Women, by
Child Care Arrangement, Nordeste de Amaralina . .. 48
SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
A Brazilian saying goes, "Children are the wealth of the poor"
("Riqueza de pobre e filho"), but Brazil is finding its children to be a
burden, and women are the ones who must bear the burden of child care on
a day to day basis.
The seriousness of the situation of children in Brazil-was the subject
of a recent Time magazine article. "Some experts predict that within 20
years or so, Brazil will be burdened with millions of adults so undernourished,
unskilled and uneducated that they will be' impervious to any kind of civiliz-
Describing the situation as "one consequence of Brazil's economic
advance," the article noted that "thousands of parents are forced to cast
their offspring out like rubbish." Of the 16 million children who are
"hopelessly deprived," half are found in the poverty-striken Northeast.
According to the juvenile court judge of Salvador, that city alone has some
200,000 abandoned children. But the focus of our research, and this report,
is on children still in the family, and the mothers who care for them.
The project "Child Care Needs of Low Income Women" surveyed low income
women in the community of Nordeste de Amaralina of Salvador, capital of the
state of Bahia, in the Northeast region of Brazil. This report investigates
the needs and limitations that women face in seeking to provide for their
families. It focuses on a woman's responsibility'for child care, and
presents the effects of child care alternatives as reflected in the
nutritional status of children.,
Over a thousand women aged 15 to 49 were surveyed as"the case study for
this report. Regional and national data were compared to understand the
context of the case study. Conclusions and recommendations are presented to
encourage consideration of policy and program alternatives to effectively
meetthe needs of children and mothers.
1. The geographic, demographic and economic disparities among the various
regions of Brazil are reflected in the status of women and children, but
throughout the country, women are occupied in low-paying professions,
and children do not receive adequate care.
2. The 1970 census of Brazil shows 18.6% of the female population over 10
years of age as "economically active." In Salvador, this figure is
36.7%. In our Nordeste de Amaralina survey (1978, women 15-49 years of
age) it is yet higher, 42.8%.
3. In Nordeste de Amaralina, women with children are more likely to work
than those without children (47.7% vs 32.2% respectively). Mothers of
children older than seven are more likely to work than those with
children under seven.
4. /-The most common occupation of all women in Nordeste de Amaralina is
laundress, but this occupation is held by many more women with children
than those without. Domestic service is the second most common
occupation, and accounts for the highest percentage of the women without
5.- Women with children are more likely to work in the home than those without
children. Women with three or more children under seven are more likely
to work in the home than those with one or two children. Most women
work both morning and afternoon, although those with children under
seven are more restricted in their schedules.
6., Among those women who do not work, "the children" was the overwhelming
reason for this, followed by the husband's disapproval. Children's
v illness was the main reason for the absence of working women from their
7. Although Brazilian law mandates the establishment of day care services
for industries, this law is widely disregarded. In Nordeste de Amaralina,
i the majority of the preschool-age children of working mothers are left
in the care of relatives. Most of the women are satisfied with this
arrangement. When asked what alternative arrangements could be
employed to meet child care needs, the women cited day care facilities
8. Brazil has an adequate quantity of food for its population, but food
is unequally distributed due to the limited purchasing power of the
/ majority of the population. In Nordeste de Amaralina, 55% of the
/ surveyed children are malnourished. Children of working mothers are
more likely to be malnourished than children of non-working mothers.
9. In Nordeste de Amaralina, the number of hours mothers spend away from
home does not affect the nutritional status of children. However, the
period of day when mothers are absent does seem to affect nutritional
status. The smallest evidence of malnutrition was found among children
of mothers who are away from home only in the afternoon. This might
be explained by the mother's presence at home in the morning when the
principal meal is prepared and served to the family.
10. Leaving children with another relative seems to be the best form of care
currently used for children under seven in Nordeste de Amaralina.
Smaller percentages of malnourished children were encountered in this
group, indicating that relatives give better'care. Too few mothers
have children in day care centers,to permit evaluation of that form
1. Attention.and services for children should be recognized as being in
the interest of society in general and not just in the interest of
2. Formulation of a national policy for children is a necessary part of
a national development plan and requires activities and budgets to
support it. A national policy would also stimulate a review of the
impact on children of policies and programs in other areas.
3. Priority should be given to children of the uhabn_aLJums, rural areas,
the Northeast, those in the lowest socio-economic group, and those under
seven years of age.
4. Food and nutrition activities must be a key element of policies and
programs relating to children and families. -Income generation projects
should be encouraged to improve the family's health status.
5. Nearly all programs cite the need for input from the community, but
very few of these actually relinquish control of the program to the **
community. The local community should have greater authority over the
programs impacting it.
6. While families may avail themselves of a variety of services,; the
programs responsible may facilitate this by providing-for integrated
services at the point of delivery. Services for families should be
provided as multisectoral efforts, and all efforts should be closely
7. There should be more rigorous enforcement of existing labor
laws and other social benefit measures. These rights should be
publicized so that women may learn about them and take advantage
of them, in order to improve the conditions of their employment.
8. Domestic activities, including child care, constitute an important
source of self-esteem and autonomous decision-making for women in
Nordeste de Amarali'na, and Brazil as a whole. Program planners need
to be aware of women's roles 'and design programs to help women organize "
these tasks in order to free time and energy for other demands. Two
examples: more flexible working hours would allow more women to be at
home in the morning when meals are prepared, pressure cookers allow
women to save time and fuel.
9. Informal networks of relatives and neighbors are currently providing
reciprocal child care and domestic services for women. These networks
7 could be expanded to form the basis for community activities, including
communal provision of child care services. For example, the in-home
"spontaneous" creches could be encouraged, via physical improvements
to the caretakers' homes and technical training to provide caretakers
with skills which will help them give better child care.
10. The reduction of family size and the spacing of children are important
goals for the improvement of the quality of life for families. Programs
should enhance the value of each individual child in the family.
Women should be encouraged to explore the choices available to them in
planning a future.
I"Brazil's Wasted Generation," Time, September 11, 1978, pp. 11-12.
3"Uma Comunidade Pede Socorro," Salvador: Tribuna da Bahia, January 4,
5, 6, 1978.
COUNTRY AND FIELD SITE DESCRIPTION
Brazil, with an estimated population of 115.4 million (mid-1978) and
an annual rate of natural increase of 2.8% in 1975-6, is the most populous
country in South America, the fifth largest in the world, and one of the
fastest growing countries of over 100 million people.1 There are significant
regional differences in population density.
Four topographical areas can be distinguished: (1) the semi-arid
scrublands of the Northeast, (2) the densely forested lowlands of the Amazon
Basin in the North, (3) the rugged mountains and gently rolling plains of
the Central West and South, and (4) the narrow coastal-belt along the
Atlantic Ocean. (See map of Brazil, next page.)
It is in this coastal belt that most of the population is concentrated.
Census figures indicate a rapid increase in the proportion of the population
residing in urban areas. In 1940, the urban population represented 31.2%
of the total, increasing to 45.1% in 1960 and 56.1% in 1970, and estimated
at 64% by 1980. The increasing urbanization is due to the combination of
the natural increase of the population in urban areas and the continuous
rural to urban migration. The official definition of urban areas used by
the Brazilian Census Bureau, however, includes all political-administrative
centers, many of which have fewer than 1,000 people.2
The crude birth rate fell from 43-44 per 1,000 per year during 1950-60
to about 40 during 1961-70. Nearly half of the effect of the fertility
decline in slowing the total population increase was offset by a reduction
in the crude death rate, from 14 to 12 per 1,000 per year during the same
period. The total growth rate fell by 7%, indicating a clear reversal of
its earlier trend, and a new phase in the evolution of the Brazilian
Disparities in socio-economic development are reflected in pronounced
differences in birth and death rates in the different geographic regions.
These, in turn, influence regional patterns of demographic growth and affect
the direction and intensity of internal migration flows. While fertility
has declined in the more developed regions of Southern Brazil, there has
been a marked increase in fertility in the less developed regions of the
Northeast and Amazonia. Moreover, the substantial north-south fertility
differential observed in 1930-40 has increased over the last three decades.
General mortality rates of Brazil show the same north-south imbalance.
Average life expectancy at birth in thg Northeast (1960-70) is 44.2 years,
contrasted with 62 years in the South.
FIGURE 2-1 MAP OF BRAZIL, SHOWING STATE OF BAHIA
Rio de Janeiro
0 200 400 miles
While the primary ethnic-group in Brazil is Portuguese, the South has
many other European immigrants as well as Japanese immigrants. The Northeast
has the descendants'of African slaves, and a few Indians remain in the Amazon
region. The vast majority of-Brazilians are Roman Catholics, although not
necessarily practicing ones. Spiritualist cults are very,,prevalent, (known
as candomble in Bahia and macumba in Rio de Janeiro) and represent a fusion
of West African deities and Catholic saints.
Brazil is noted for its tradition of boom economies: sugar during the
colonial era, then gold and diamonds, coffee, and rubber. Industry is
today's boom. The gross domestic product grew at an average annual rate of
nearly 10% between 1968 and 1972, a growth referred to as "the Brazilian
Brazil's industrial development has been extremely uneven from a
geographical point of view. Industry is heavily concentrated in the states
of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais. The Northeast, which was
the leading area during the Colonial period, is now considered a poverty-
stricken, underdeveloped country within a country. The Northeast is
Brazil's most densely populated region, and it is dominated by a sugar-based
monoculture along the coast and plagued with periodic droughts in its semi-
arid backlands. The Northeast has received considerable aid from the federal
government, including special fiscal incentives for the establishment of
An example of these incentives in Bahia is the establishment of the
Aratu Industrial Center. Nearly a hundred small, medium and large size
industries are located there, and investments total over US $1 billion.
About 23,000 jobs have been created.6 These figures suggest an investment
of'$40,000 for each new job, and demonstrate that industrial development
has been very capital intensive rather than labor intensive.
These achievements of the Brazilian economy during the late 1960s and
early 1970s have been rightly criticized on the grounds that the main .
benefits have accrued to a small minority of the population at the expense
of the poor. From 1960 to 1970, the share of total income among the richest
5% of the population increased 72%,*while nearly 75% of the population
experienced no change. Studies indicate that the inequality of income
distribution in Brazil was the greatest in Latin America in 1960, and that
it continued to grow during the decade.7
The state of Bahia, in the Northeast, with an area of 217,000 square
miles, represents 7% of the land mass of, Brazil and is slightly larger than
France. It faces the Atlantic Ocean and has a large region of sugar cane,
banana and cocoa 'plantations, and stretches toward the center of the country
with vast backlands of cattle ranches. The capital of the state is Salvador,
with a current population of 1.3 million. It has been one of the more dynamic
economic growth centers in Brazil in the past decade. Per capital income in
metropolitan Salvador rose from US $350 in 1967 to between $950-980 in
The benefits of industrial growth, however, have yet to reach most of
the population of Salvador. The community of Nordeste de Amaralina is one
/ of the more centrally located squatter settlements in relation to downtown
Salvador, but it is not near the recently founded industrial parts of the
city. The residents of the community are not specialized technicians,
and thus have not felt the impact or derived benefits from the industrial
growth that has occurred in Salvador.
Nordeste de Amaralina
Nordeste de Amaralina is a neighborhood in the city of Salvador, situated
east of the center of the city on hills overlooking the ocean. The area
covers 182 hectares, of which most was originally a fruit orchard and cocoa
plantation belonging to Nasser Borges. In 1926 he rented some of the land
to about 30 families, who settled there permanently, claiming the land as
their own and invading other land. By 1974 an average of one house per day
was being constructed, and today there are some 12,000 low income families
in the community. It is the second largest low income community in the city,
and has a population greater than many major cities of the state. A study
of the community in 1974 showed a population of 52,000, of which more than
half was under 25 years of age.9 (See map, next page.)
Access to the Nordeste de Amaralina area is by paved roads, which are
traveled by a fairly good bus system as well as private vehicles. The
residences themselves, however, are often accessible only on foot, as the
area is quite hilly and rains have caused deep ruts in the dirt paths. The
main avenue has a series of small shops, including a pharmacy, a yard goods
store, a bakery, a hardware store, several bars, as well as several fruit
and vegetable dealers, and candy and small items stands on every corner.
In Salvador, 54% of the houses have water piped into the home, where it
is stored in oil drums or fiberglass tanks. Many families may use the water
tap of one house. Thirty percent of the houses are connected to a sewage
system or have a septic tank.10 But the Nordeste de Amaralina sanitary
conditions would not come close to matching the overall figures for the city
of Salvador. Few of the houses have running water or a toilet. Usually
there is an open drain that goes down the hill carrying the sewage away.
Most houses have concrete floors, walls of mud between poles, plastered
and painted, with a ceramic tile roof. A house usually consists of a main
room, a kitchen and a bedroom or two, and a back patio for washing and dry-
ing clothes, with an outhouse. The better homes are usually owned by
families residing in the neighborhood the longest, and are larger, made of
concrete blocks, have better household conveniences and sanitary facilities.
Almost all the houses in this community have electricity, and the more
prosperous families have an accumulation of electrical appliances,
particularly a television.
Nordeste de Amaralina has a state-supported health center which is
staffed by several doctors, nurses and a nutritionist. The center operates
an infant and maternal food supplementation program. Located next to the
health center is a municipal police station. Schools are nearby, both primary
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and secondary, although attendance is irregular. Many of them cannot be
registered due to lack of space. Others attend irregularly due to their
own domestic or income-generating activities.
The focus of this study being women and children, the following brief
look at one of the residents and her daily routine is illustrative of low
income families in Nordeste de Amaralina:
My name is Maria Conceicao.da Silva. I am 40 years old.
I am illiterate. When I was little I studied only 1 year in a
primary school and today I only know how.to sign my name.
I have had 5 children, one of whom was stillborn. Now
I have only 4 children.
My firstchild was born when I was 15 years old, today my
oldest child is 25 and my youngest is 4.
All my children are in school except the oldest son and
one girl 11 years old, that the teacher says she needn't go
to school because she can't learn anything; she was sick because
she fell and the doctor said that she had a problem in her head.
I have lived here in Nordeste for 20 years. I was one of
the first to arrive here and I have been a laundress for 29
years; I started to wash clothes when I was 11 years old to
help my mother. Later I started to get some clothes to wash
for myself, and never quit being a laundress.
Right now I wash clothes for 8 people and earn 1600
cruzeiros per month.* My husband (the man I live with) is a
brick layer. He only works when he can find a short-term job.
My oldest son is not married and he lives with us. He is a
fare-collector on the bus and helps us with food and house-
hold repairs. I don't really know what our monthly family income
I work every day of the week. I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and
start washing clothes. At 6:00 I prepare breakfast for the
children and send some of them off to school, the others stay
at home playing or helping me clean up the house. Right after
breakfast I put the beans on the stove and continue washing
clothes until 12:00 when I put lunch on the table for the
children and wait for my husband for lunch. At 1:00 I start
ironing the clothes and stop at 5:00 when I prepare the
evening meal for the children and eat. At 7:00 p.m., I go to
sleep. I sleep very early because my body can't take any more,
rarely do I watch TV and I almost never see my husband when he
gets back at night. I pass the entire week working and never
go out, only on Saturday do I go to the market at 6:00 a.m. and
*About $84 U.S. at exchange rate 19 cruzeiros to US $, September 1978.
I return I wash or iron
is Sunday, when I watch
of the house talking to
clothes. The only day I
television and sit at the
My eldest child is a daughter, 25 years old. She
works as a servant in one of the office buildings, and I
take care of her two children, as well as my youngest child
who is four. When I have to leave the house to pick up or
deliver laundry, a neighbor keeps her eye on all the children.
I tried to get at least one of the children into the day
care center down the street but there was no room. I worry
about the children when I'm away.
This case history is a "composite" of the women who live in Nordeste
de Amaralina. Her routine is typical of the day-to-day lives of the women
surveyed in the sample. Table 2-1 presents the age groups of-the sample
y of women of a fertile age (15-49 years). As can be seen, it is a young
group, with nearly half of the women between 15 and 24. Fifty-seven
percent of the women are under 30 years of age, 27% are between 30 and 39,
and 17% are over 40 years of age.
SAMPLE OF WOMEN ACCORDING TO
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
15 19 248 23.5
20 24 197 18.6
25 29 156 14.8
30 34 137 13.0
35 39 143 13.5
40 44 103 9.7
45 49 73 6.9
*In this table, and all other tables, percentages
are rounded to 1/10th of a percent. Due to rounding,
details may not total 100.0%.
Forty-one percent of the women surveyed are single, over 56% maintain
sort of conjugal life, and the remaining 3% are widows or separated. It
was not determined how many women in the survey are actually the head of
the household. Merrick and Schmink estimate one-fifth of the households
in Brazil between 1960 and 1970 were headed by women.11 This is somewhat
higher than the estimate for South America as a whole (15%) as analyzed by
Of the total sample of 1,057 women, 33.2% (N = 351) have no children, ~
55% (N = 581) have children under seven years of age, and 11.8% (N = 125)
have children over seven years of age. Among those women with preschool
children, there is an average of two preschoolers per household.
TABLE 2-2 DISTRIBUTION OF CHILDREN UNDER 7
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
YEARS OF AGE
Number of Children per Woman Women
One child 225 38.7
Two children 194 33.4
Three children 85 14.6
Four children 37 6.4
Five children 10 1.7
Six children 1 0.2
Adopted children (under 7, no
age specified) 29 5.0
With this introduction to the setting of this study, and a description
of the family structure encountered in the sample, attention is now
focused to the labor force participation of women in Brazil and the
mothers in Nordeste de Amaralina in particular.
Population Reference Bureau. 1978 World Population Reference Sheet.
Washington, D.C.: Population Reference Bureau, 1978.
de Mello Moreira, Morvan, Lea Melo da Silva and Robert McLaughlin.
Country Profiles: Brazil. New York: The Population Council, 1978, p. 7.
3 bid.,p. 5.
5Ibid., p. 6.
Whitney, Peter D., US Department of State, American Consulate in
Salvador, "Investment Opportunities and a Prescription for Economic Develop-
ment in Bahia," unclassified Airgram dated October 1, 1976, p. 6.
de Mello, op. cit., p. 11.
Whitney, op. cit., p. 1.
Untitled, unpublished study by the Federal University of Bahia, 1974.
Ministerio da Saude, Instituto Nacional de Alimentaqao e Nutrico,
"Relatorio Final: Seminario sobre Desnutricao Energetico-Proteica no
Brasil." Brasilia DF, 1977 mimeo., p. 55.
Merrick, Thomas W. and Marianne Schmink, "Female Headed Households
and Urban Poverty in Brazil." Revised version of a paper prepared for
workshop on "Women in Poverty; What Do We Know?" Belmont Conference
Center, April 30-May 2, 1978, p. 9.
1Buvinic, Mayra and Nadia H. Youssef, Women-headed Households in
Third World Countries: An Overview. Washington, D.C.: International
Center for Research on Women, 1978.
LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION AND INCOME
Brazil has a highly diversified economic base, with vast natural
resources, large expanses of uncultivated land, and an important consumer
market. But this picture hides the extremely uneven income distribution
and severe regional inequalities. In 1960, 5% of the population had 27%
of the income, and 50% had 17% of the income. By 1970 5% had 36%.of the
income and 80% had 36% of the income.1 The annual per capital income in
Brazil is approximately US $1,400.
Income statistics and wage determination in Brazil usually follow a
system of "minimum salary." This formula is determined by the government,
based on productivity and regional cost of living measures. In 1978 one
minimum salary was about US $80/month. Since 1965, Brazil's minimum salary
has failed to keep up with the cost of living increases, or to assure the
constitutionally-defined "minimum ration" of basic food requirements for
the worker and his/her family.
The greatest number of low income families live in the Northeast.
Nearly half of the population in the Northeast have a family income of less
than 1 minimum salary whereas in the Southern region (area including Sio
Paulo), less than one-fourth of the population has such a low income.2
The response of these low income families has been to send more than
one member of the family, usually the wife or child, into the labor force.
The typical working-class family in Sio Paulo had one economically active
person in 1958, and had two in 1969. This was an effort to compensate for
the decline in the value of the family income. In those eleven years, the
real value of the income of the head of the household diminished by 36.5%.3
From 1940 to.1950, women's participation in agriculture dropped from
35.3% to 26.4%. The 1960 figures showed an increase in female agriculture
participation, reaching 43.4% in 1970. Madeira' explains the initial drop
as a result of men substituting for women in agriculture on large farms, and
women migrating to the cities. Employment opportunities for men were also
reduced in agriculture due to greater mechanization and commercialization
of large properties. She attributes the increase in later years to the
greater number of small and medium sized rural properties, where the
utilization of female work is much more intense due to the subsistence
nature of smaller farms. There are more small farms due to the increase in
rural population and the opening of previously uncultivated land.
The non-agricultural, urban labor force experienced a more pronounced
decline in women's participation, 31.2% in 1940, 23.1% in 1950, and 23.6%
in 1970. On the one hand, manufactured goods substituted hand crafted
items, especially clothing, where women were active, and on the other,
industry and commerce sought highly skilled employees, and the bulk of the
female population did not have the education to compete in this market.
The 1970 Census showed 6,200,000 women economically active, or 18.6%
of the female population over 10 years of age. Of the 29 million workers
in Brazil, a fifth were women. Two-thirds of these women were concentrated
in six occupations: domestic workers, agriculturists, primary school
teachers, garment and textile industry employees, and non-diploma nurses.
As skilled male workers have been attracted towards expanding industrial
sectors, increasing numbers of unskilled women are being employed in sectors
hitherto traditionally occupied by men. For example, in many large cities,
including Salvador, women are being employed by municipal authorities as
street cleaners. The press often features articles by employers who praise
female workers and emphasize that women are more conscientious, hard-working
and punctual than men, and do not demand wage increases.5
A UNESCO study of women in Brazil noted a marked difference between men
and women regarding the duration of their economically active life. Whereas
a man on the average is economically active for 41 years, a woman averages
9 1/2 years.6 The government recently introduced new provisions into the
legal texts on social security matters, to give housewives the right to
register with the INPS (social security system) as a self-employed worker.
This entitles the woman to the medical and hospital care provided and to a
retirement pension. Few women have availed themselves of this opportunity.
The National Household Sample Survey (PNAD, 1973) documented the income
difference between men and women. Fifty-four percent of the women earned
less than one minimum salary, while fewer than 40% of the men did so. On
the top of the income ladder, men outnumbered women 60 to 1. This survey
also found that 77% of the women are illiterate or have only a primary
education, and 10% are heads of families.
Low income workers and women in particular are relegated to the most
undesirable jobs, those with the least security, the lowest salaries, and
the least opportunity for improvement. The servant occupation is a fine
example of this category. Two million women, about a third of the female
labor force, were employed as domestics according to 1973 PNAD figures.
This occupation offers women the opportunity to earn income by performing
stereotypically female functions.
The future of the domestic occupation, however, is dim. In Salvador
from 1950 to 1970, the population increased by 150%, whereas the number of
domestics increased by 109%. Among high income households, there was a
42% drop in the average number of servants per home. Lower fertility rates
of high income families have resulted in fewer people per family, and thus
decreased need for servants, as well as a reduced need for live-in domestics
as compared to day servants. The large number of unemployed women among the
low income population is partially due to fewer domestic jobs being available.7
The domestic occupation offers' little future to the women so employed.
They do not have the benefits guaranteed other laborers,-such as unioniza-
tion, prior notice of termination, retirement funds, and "13th month" salary
bonus. They may participate in the social security'system, but employers
are not obligated to undertake the registration. Law #5859 of 11 December 1972
conferred rights on women domestic workers by giving them the option of
contributing to the Social Security Institute (INPS) and so of having a
national employment card regularly signed by their employers. This entitles
them to the medical and hospital care, retirement at seventy and annual
holidays. It gives them the right to recourse to the Industrial Disputes
Courts if their employer infringes the labor law. In practice, however,
women domestics seldom avail themselves of these rights.
Salaries for domestics are notoriously low. A study done in 1976 by
the Domestics Association of Recife (capital of. the state of Pernambuco in
the Northeast) showed that over half of the maids in Recife earned less than
US $15 per month (160 cruzeiros). A study by Helena Saffioti in early 1975
showed the average salary to be US $42 per month (227 cruzeiros) in Araraquara,
a manufacturing city in Sao Paulo state." These statistics also show the
wage difference of the Northeast compared to the South.
Although Salvador was the first national capital and an early focal
point of development, it was bypassed by,industrial development. From 1940
onward, population increased substantially: from 417,000.in 1950, to
700,000 in 1960, to 1,000,000 in 1970. Due to the rural crisis in the
Northeast in those years, Salvador and the other regional capitals received
great migratory population. But this was not in answer to work opportunities
created in the cities, rather due to the fact that it was the only alternative
since life in the drought-stricken countryside was impossible.9
The creation of infrastructure necessary for industrialization--
communication, roads, electricity, etc.--was mandated by the government,
and opened the region to participation in the national economy. But the
result was the creation of a new market for goods produced in Sao Paulo and
other developed areas.10
Thus Salvador and two other metropolitan areas of the Northeast
(Recife and Fortaleza) account for 7% of the country's urban population but
represent less than 3% of overall industrial employment, whereas greater
Sao Paulo and greater Rio de Janeiro have 29% of the country's urban
population and account for almost half the labor force employed in
Jelin estimated the 1970 population of Salvador to be engaged as
indicated in Table 3-1. Thirty-seven percent of the women were employed,
versus 82.3%.for men. The unemployment figures for men (17.7%) compared
to women (9.4%), show higher unemployment for men, but this depends on the
definition given to unemployment. Over half of the women (53.9%) were
listed as "Unpaid domestics," whereas none of the men were so listed. Most
women were found working in simple craft production; the greatest number of
men were found in the "private capitalistic sector."
FORMS OF PRODUCTIVE ORGANIZATION
Activities % of Population, 18 Years+
Men Women Total
Paid domestic 3.3 6.2 4.9
Simple craft production 14.1 14.5 14.3
Private capitalistic sector 41.7 7.1 22.7
Public sector 23.2 8.9 15.3
Unpaid domestic 0.0 53.9 29.6
Unemployed 17.7 9.4 13.2
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0
*Source: Jelin, Elizabeth. "0 Trabalho Feminino na Bahia."
Dados, no. 12, 1976. Rio de Janeiro: IUPERJ, p. 62.
Nordeste de Amaralina
The survey in Nordeste de Amaralina showed that a high percentage of
women (43%) were engaged in remunerated activity. Table 3-2 shows that
mothers of older children were more likely to work than mothers of preschool
aged children. The statistical tests demonstrated significant relationships
between number of children, age of children, and mother's participation in
the labor force. Women with children over seven were found to be more likely
to work than women with children under seven.12
FEMALE LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION AND THE PRESENCE
OF CHILDREN, NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Without With Children Total
Participation Children Younger Than Older Than
7 Years Old 7 Years Old
Number % Number % Number % Number %
Working 113 32.2 260 44.8 77 61.6 450 42.6
Not working 238 67.8 321 55.2 48 38.4 607 57.4
Total 351 581 125 1,057
As shown in Table 3-3, the majority of women work for low pay and
perform relatively low status activities characteristic of a population
sector with little education and poor socio-economic conditions.
TABLE 3-3 OCCUPATIONS OF WOMEN, NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Occupation Without With Total
Number, % Number Number %
Laundress 4 3.5 107 31.5 I11 24.7
Maid 41 36.3 51 15.1 92' 20.4
Clerk 18 15.9 29 8.6 47 10.4
Seamstress 9 8.0, 32 9.5 41 9.1
Hairdresser-manicurist 10 8.8 27 8.0 37 8.2
Sales clerk 5 4.4 22 6.5 27' 6.0
Day servant 2 1.8 24 7.1 26 5.8
Teacher 10 8.8 11 3.3 21' 4.7
Nurse's aide 4 3.5 13 3.9 17 3.8
Other 10 8.8 21 6.2 31 6.9
Total 113 337 450'
Among the women who do not have children, the most common job is as
a maid, followed by sales clerk, primary school teacher, and hairdresser
and manicurist. Among the women who'have'children, the greatest number
wash clothes, an activity which may be performed at home and is thus
compatible with caring for children. Many are servants, hairdressers or
manicurists, seamstresses, independent saleswomen (selling clothes, beauty
products, etc.), teachers and nurse's aides.
Over half of the women surveyed did not work and the presence of young /
children is the reason most frequently cited for this. Table 3-4 shows
that children, and preschoolers in particular, are an obstacle to women's
participation in the labor force. The husband's disapproval is also a
Although children may create the need for a.woman to enter the labor
force, they may require her to stay home and thus limit her alternatives
for work. Table 3-5 indicates that among working women, the majority
(61.8%) work outside the home. It is observed that among women who do not
have children, 78.0% work outside the home, and among those that have
children less than 7 years of age, 56.9% work outside the home. The
statistical tests demonstrate that the place of work varies according to
whether the woman has children or not, and how many she has, but does not
vary according to age of the children.13
The number of children in the'family is a variable that affects the
choice of the place of work for women (see Table 3.6). The statistical test
demonstrated a significant association when the group of women with fewer
than 3 children was compared with the group of women with three or more
children. While 59.4% (N = 123) of the women with one or two children work
WOMEN'S REASONS FOR NOT WORKING,
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Reasons All Women Women with
Children under 7
Number % Number %
Because of the children 159 26.2 156 48.6
Husband's negative attitude
toward wife working 104 17.1 87 27.1
Cannot get a job 94 15.5 25 7.8
Domestic tasks impede 27 4.4 16 5.0
Studies impede 91 15.0 0 0.0
No need to work 55 9.1 9 2.8
Poor health 35 5.8 14 4.4
Other 42 6.9 14 4.4
Total 607 321
TABLE 3-5 WORK LOCATION, ACCORDING TO PRESENCE AND AGE
OF CHILDREN IN THE FAMILY, NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Place of Work Without Younger than Older than Total
Children 7 Years 7 Years
Number % Number % Number % Number %
In the home 25 22.1 112 43.1 35 45.5 172 38.2
Outside the home 88 77.9 148 56.9 42 54.5 278 61.8
Total 113 260 77 450
outside the home, only 47.2% (N = 25) of the women with three or more children
work outside the home.l
Table 3-7 shows that of the women with children less than 7 years old
and working outside the home, 39.2% spent between 4 and 8 hours away from
their children, 37.0% spent between 8 and 12 hours away and 16.9% spent more
than 12 hours away from their children.
In general, the majority of women work outside the home, in the morning
and the afternoon, as shown in Table 3-8. However, when women with children
are compared to those without, it is found that most women without children
work during the morning and afternoon; followed by the morning, afternoon
ACCORDING TO THE
WORK LOCATION OF WORKING WOMEN
NUMBER OF CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 7 YEARS
Working Women with Children
Work Location Number of Children Younger than 7 years
I or 2 3 5 Total
Number % Number % Number %
In the home 84 40.6 28 52.8 112 43.1
Outside the home' 123 59.4 25 47.2 148 56.9
Total 207 53 260
TABLE 3-7 WORKING WOMEN WITH CHILDREN YOUNGER
THAN 7 YEARS ACCORDING TO HOURS WORKED OUTSIDE THE HOME
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Hours Outside the Home Working Women with Children
4 hours or less 8 5.4
4 to 8 hours 58 39.2
8 to 12 hours 56 37.8
12 hours or more 25 16.9
Other 1 0.7
and night; and finally the morning only. Most women with children under
7 work during the morning and the afternoon, in the afternoon only, or finally
in the morning only. Women without children are more available to work morn-
ing, noon and night than those who have preschool age children. Finally,
women who have children under 7 years work during both the morning and /
noon, demonstrating that having children less than 7 years old makes it
difficult to work a full day.
Women do not want to work in the morning because that is the time when
the major meal of the day is prepared, marketing is done, and visits to the
health clinic or other government agencies must be made.
When women with young children were asked why they are absent from work,
the large majority answered that problems with the children, usually illness,
caused their absence. Only 12% attributed their absence to other reasons.
This also indicates that children under seven hinder women's participation in
the labor force.
TABLE 3-8 WORKING WOMEN ACCORDING TO PERIOD WORKED OUTSIDE THE HOME
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Period of Day Without Older than Younger than Total
Children 7 Years 7 Years
Number % Number % Number % Number %
Morning only 9 10.2 1 2.4 16 10.8 26 9.4
Afternoon only 7 8.0 4 9.5 19 12.8 30 10.8
Evening only 7 8.0 0 0.0 5 3.4 12 4.3
Morning and afternoon 46 52.3 28 66.7 82 55.4 156 56.1
and evening 16 18.2 6 14.3 15 10.1 37 13.3
Other 3 3.4 3 7.1 11 7.4 17 6.1
Total 88 42 148 278
7 Domestic chores are a woman's responsibility regardless of whether or
not she works outside the home. In over a third of the cases (see
Table 3-9), the working woman herself is totally responsible for all domestic
chores. In another third of the cases another relative, usually the child's
grandmother or aunt handles such tasks, which shows the extent to which the
extended family is available. Even though a reasonable percentage of women
(18.3%) said their children are responsible for domestic chores, it can be
assumed that they do not do all the chores of the house and that a large part
remains for the woman to do when she returns from work. Six percent relied
on a servant, which is not an option for many of the working women who are
servants themselves for middle class women.
for Domestic Tasks
PERSONS RESPONSIBLE FOR DOMESTIC TASKS
IN THE HOMES OF WORKING WOMEN
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Responses of Working Women
Self 82 37.4
Relative 78 35.6
Children 40 18.3
Maid 13 5.9
Other 6 2.7
When working women were asked if husbands help in household chores, they
responded that nearly all men do some things when they are in the house,
from looking after the children to repairing items in the house, but clearly
the husband could not be counted on for the routine domestic chores of the
Zahide Machado Neto has focused on the situation of young girls in the
family in a low income community in Salvador. She found that from an early
age, sex is the determining criterion in the distribution of domestic
chores. Of forty girls in her interviewed families, only 2 daughters did
not have any domestic responsibilities, and one of the two was mentally
retarded. She found that girls' absence-from school in 80% of the cases /
was due to domestic chores, and that girls missed school 30% more than boys.
A mother said, "Being a girl, she's a woman, and women don'tneed to know
how to read very much." The result is that children, and particularly
daughters, grow up in conditions very similar to those of their parents,
and are likely to find equally low positions in the labor force.5
Cebotarev reached similar conclusions in her study of time allocation
in households in Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela.16, She found that among the
internal characteristics of the family, the position of the woman, the
stage of family life, and the size of the family appear to have certain effect
over the organization of female work. Factors external to the family, such
as schedules of school and work, are also reflected in the organization of
female domestic work. Her data suggest that women in young families (those
with the oldest child of preschoolage) tended to occupy themselves more
with domestic chores and less in work outside the home than in more mature
families. The age of the eldest daughter is a variable which determines
the intensity of the domestic activities of the wife, because it's she who
is in charge of part of the domestic responsibilities when her age permits.
As Cebotarev notes, every person in distributing available time will try
to satisfy prioritarily the activities most closely related with his/her own
perception of key role. Women have traditionally been identified with the
complex role of wife, mother and domestic. The introduction of new
activities will tend to extend the time dedicated to all activities, rather
than displace some elements of the key role. The result.is a double day.
This strategy is employed by women to protect their status and legitimate
authority in the small circle of social reality that is available to them.
The survey in Nordeste de Amaralina showed that while 43% of the women
are actually engaged in remunerated activity, nearly all women thought women
should help in the economic sustenance of the family (93.3% were for the
idea, 6.7% against). In group discussions with women of the community,
all agreed that women should control the family income, because women know J
better than their husbands what are the family necessities. In spite of
this, many of the women did not know.how much their husband earned because
he brought home all the family purchases.
The gap between those women who feel they should earn income, and those
who do is in part due to the low educational status of women in Nordeste
de Amaralina, and Brazil as a whole. In Table 3-10 the Nordeste data show
TABLE 3-10 HIGHEST EDUCATIONAL LEVEL ATTAINED
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA AND BRAZIL*
Year 1978 1970
Age 15 49 25+
No schooling 14.1% 46.5%
Literacy Course (Mobral) 1.7
Primary school incomplete 33.7 24.1
Primary school complete 17.0 19.0
Junior high incomplete 14.8
Junior high complete 6.2 5.2
High school incomplete 6.0
High school complete 3.3
Post secondary 1.8 1.0
Other/unknown 1.4 4.2
Total 100.0 100.0
*Source for Brazil: UNESCO.
UNESCO, 1978, p. 57.
Statistical Yearbook 1977. Paris:
a considerably higher education average than the national data. This is
probably due to the difference in age groups represented in the statistics,
as well as the fact that national figures include rural areas where little
schooling is available. Nordeste figures are higher than national averages
because they reflect an urban population of an age group likely to have
the most education. Nevertheless, half of the women surveyed have less
Than a complete primary school education, a fact which limits the occupations
that are available to them.
Miranda found that rate of labor force participation increases with the
level of schooling, for both single and married women.17 However,
participation differences by marital status are larger in the lower levels
of schooling. In the higher levels, differences tend to diminish, perhaps
because married women have domestic help for household and child care
activities. She notes that although married women of low socio-economic
status are theoretically more inclined to work since they probably need to
complement their husbands' low salary, their level of participation is
7.9% lower than women of the other classes. She suggests that this is due
to the difficulty women have in finding jobs which are compatible with their
In group discussions in Nordeste de Amaralina, the majority of the women
felt the ideal occupation was a government.employee. Other professions that
they would like to have were store owner or seamstress. All conceded that
the lack of education hindered them from finding work that paid more, or
getting a job at all.
Among the 29 participants in the discussion, four had some specific
training in cooking, manicure, art and crafts, sewing and typing; with the
exception of the last, all training had been offered at the Santo Andre
Community Center in Nordeste de Amaralina.
To conclude, women's activities which produce income are concentrated
in marginally lucrative occupations. At the household level, labor is
allocated in such a manner as to assure the survival of the family in the
face of insufficient wages. Looking to the future, women will most likely
continue to have relatively poor opportunities in the labor market, unless
changes in the very process of economic development begin to facilitate the
incorporation of women into the labor force.
'Ministerio da Saude, Instituto Nacional de Alimentacio e Nutricao,
"Relatorio Final: Seminario sobre Desnutricao Energetico-Proteica no
Brasil," Brasilia, DF, 1977, mimeo, p. 53.
2Ministerio da Saude, op. cit., p. 52.
3DIEESE study 1969, referred to in "Mulher: Depoimentos sobre um
Trabalho Ignorado," Cadernos de Debate, number 2, Editora Brasiliense,
So Paulo, 1976.
4Madeira, Felicia R. and Singer, Paul I., "Estutura do Emprego e
Trabalho Feminino no Brasil: 1920-1970," Cadernos CEBRAP, number 13,
Editora Brasiliense, Sao Paulo, 1973 p. 56.
5"National Inventory on the Status of Women in Brazil," Paris:
UNESCO, 1977, p. 3.
6 bid., p. 50.
7Singer, Paul, et al., "Demanda por Alimentos na Area Metropolitana
de Salvador," Cadernos CEBRAP, no. 23, Editora Brasiliense, Sao Paulo,
1976, p. 78.
8"Mulher: Depoimentos sobre um Trabalho Ignorado," Cadernos de Debate,
no. 2, Editora Brasiliense, 1976, Sao Paulo, p. 46.
9Jelin, Elizabeth, "Formas de Organizacion de la Actividad Economica
y Estructura Ocupacional: El Caso de Salvador, Brasil," Desarrollo Economico
No. 153, vol. 14, April-June 1974, published by the Instituto de Desarrollo
Econ6mico y Social, Buenos Aires, Argentina, p. 184.
l0Jelin, op. cit., p. 186.
lIBritish Chamber of Commerce in Brazil, Brazil's Second National
Development Plan (1975/79), English language edition, 1975, P. 80.
12X12 = 23.164 p> 0.05 (Women without children and women with children).
X12 = 11.660 p> 0.05 (Women with children older than 7 years and women with
children younger than 7 years).
13X12 = 16.57 (lgL7; p> 0.05) (Women without children and women with
children). X12 = 0.1339; p> 0.05 (Women with children less than, and older
than, 7 years of age).
14Xl2 ='2.582 (g12); p>0.05 (Women with fewer than 3 children and
women with 3 or more children).
15Machado Neto, Zahide, "As Meninas: Sobre o Trabalho da Crianca e
da Adolescente na Familia Proletaria," paper presented at a seminar "Women
in the Labor Force in Latin America," IUPERJ, Rio de Janeiro, 1978.
16Cebotarev, E. A., "La Organizacion del Tiempo de Actividades
Domesticas y No-Domesticas de Mujeres Campesinas en Latinoamerica," paper
presented at seminar "Women in the Labor Force in Latin America," IUPERJ,
Rio de Janeiro, 1978.
17Miranda, Glaura Vasques de, "A Educacgo a Mulher Brasiliera e sua
Participaqao nas Atividades Economicas, em 1970," Cadernos de Pesquisa,
no. 15, December 1975, Sao Paulo: Carlos Chagas Foundation, pp. 21-46; and
"Women's Labor Force Participation in a Developing Society: The Case of
Brazil," in Women and National Development: The Complexities of Change,
edited by The Wellesley Editorial Committee, Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1977, pp. 261-275.
Brazil has 21 million preschool aged children (1975), representing
20% of the total population. Nearly 600,000 of these are in some form of
preschool institution, but few of these are children of low income families.
With the population increasing at a rate of 2.7% per year, or 3 million
births each year,1 the 1980 estimate is about 35,000,000 preschool children.
It is estimated that in S9o Paulo there is an immediate need for
330,000 vacancies for children under 6 years of age. In Rio Grande do Sul,
another developed southern state, the population of children aged 0 to 2
years is 154,000, for which 1400 places in nurseries exist, or one per 800
infants.' In Rio de Janeiro, only 1.3% of the children attend preschbols.2
Middle to high income families have a variety of services available, at
a price. Registration fees average US $30-100, supplies fee, $30 per
semester, and payments of $100-130 per month in Rio de Janeiro and Sao
Paulo. The private profit-making day care center is cost prohibitive for
Article 389 of the Brazilian.Labor Law Code (Law #5452; May 1, 1943)
states, "The establishments in which work at least 30 (thirty) women, more
than 16 (sixteen) years of age, willhave an appropriate place where the
employees will be permitted to keep their children under supervision and
attention during the nursing period.
"The requirement of the first paragraph can'be fulfilled by district
nurseries maintained, directly or by-contract, with other public or private
entities, by the businesses themselves, in the community, or under the
sponsorship of SESI, SESC, LBA or other union entities."
Thus Brazilian law requires appropriate child care for infants of
working mothers. The responsibility of this care is placed in the hands of
the businesses employing more than 30 women over the age of 16. This
responsibility, however, can be met by contracting the care to another
entity, and thus the option to breast-feed the child at the place of work is
The law does not provide assistance for women who work in establish-
ments employing fewer than 30 women, nor does it require care for any
children beyond those in the nursing period, except as encouraged in
Article 399, which states "The Minister of Labor and Social Previsions will
confer a merit diploma to the employers who distinguish themselves by the
organization and maintenance of nurseries and of institutions to protect
children of preschool age, since such services commend the generosity and
efficiency of the respective businesses."
Regulations establishing the physical attributes of a nursery, in the
business locale or in contracted entity, are delineated by decree of
January 15, 1969, from the National Department of Work Safety and Hygiene.
In accordance with the law, a few factories have day care centers for
children of their employees. In Sao Paulo thegr.-e_ appre ximately 150,000
businesses, of whiLch_33_bave. nurserie The large Kibon ice cream and
chocolate factory in Sao Paulo has a nursery for 15 infants. From 6 a.m.
to 5 p.m. the children receive clothing, food, and medical attention of
two nurses and three nurse's aides. There is a special breast-feeding room
with sanitary facilities.3
The Souza Cruz cigarette factory in Rio de Janeiro (owned by an American
corporation) has a nursery with a capacity of 31 children (0-1 year) for
each shift. With five attendants, two nurses and one doctor on call, its
attendance is about 20 infants, using some 180 diapers per day. The labor
force at this factory is predominantly female, 1600 women and 1000 men.
The Klabin ceramic factory in Rio has its own creche on site for 45
children of female employees, 35 are 0-18 months, 10 are 18-36 months.
Mothers are charged US $10 per month, and participate in a monthly meeting.
The creche is open 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., coordinating with the work shifts, and
is staffed by ten employees.
Some companies maintain contracts with private or public nurseries in
order to comply with the law. An example of one such private nursery in
Rio de Janeiro is called "Global Technical Assistance." It has contracts
with 86 large businesses, which employ a total of 12,000 women. In eight
years of operation, this nursery has cared for fivechildren. The Jornal
do Brasil has had a contract with this creche since 1970, but due to the
distance of the creche from the newspaper offices and the employees homes,
no children have attended. The bus that was intended to take children from
the newspaper office to the nursery had never made a run.5
Some companies do offer their employees a subsidy for children. The
Grupo Financeiro Lar Brasileira (which is the Chase Manhattan Bank locally)
offers employees US $10-12 monthly per child.6 Petrobras, the government
owned petroleum company, also offers such subsidies.
Presidential Decree #69.514 of November 9, 1971 declares that under the
responsibility of the Ministry of Health, efforts for maternal-child care
have these principal objectives: (a) attention to pregnant and lactating
mothers, and infants; (b) care for preschool age children; (c) care for
By this decree, programs in maternal-child care are to be implemented
in a decentralized manner, and are to be coordinated with other services of
the Ministry of Health and the states, municipalities and private sector
entities. Financing will be from federal, state and municipal sources as
well as from private sources.
No particular agency has a monopoly on child care. Several national v/
bodies, SESI, SESC, LBA, FUNABEM, etc., often overlap with local efforts.
Article 397 of the Labor Law Code states "SESI [Industrial Social Service],
the LBA [Brazilian Assistance League] and other public entities giving
attention to children will maintain'or support, in accordance with their
financial possibilities, pre-schools and kindergartens, distributed in the
areas of greatest laborer density, especially for children of working
mothers." The Presidential Decree referred to above determines that the
priority area of the LBA is maternal-child attention.
The' president of LBA recently declared "the government does not want to
'state-i'ze' social assistance, but rather to support community action,
mobilizing and stimulating businesses, unions, clubs, in the sense of taking
advantage of the 'national community product,' a lode that is 'practically
The'directives from the Health Ministry on"the organization-of creches
confirm this community-based orientation "'A child care center should not
exist as.an isolated unit, independent, but rather integrated into an organic
total that permits the attainment of its objectives in a dynamic and grow-
ing perspective. It should, therefore, be inserted in a program of preschool
care which is contained in a program of maternal-child care, within the v
general health policy. This'policy, however, will only be executible when
integrated in a national plan, harmoniously including the other areas, or
thus, a complete political-social structure."7
According to the Presidential decree previously mentioned, the care
dispensed will be, "by preference, to the child of lowest income population iJ
group, especially in the zones and regions least developed." The guide-
lines in the handbook by the Ministry of Health do not specify priority
ages or areas.
The handbook presented by the'Ministry of Education and Culture states
that priority will be given to needy children, and within that numerous
population, the current emphasis will be on children aged 4, 5 and 6. This
is justified on the basis that a) earlier ages are already covered by
assistance in health and nutrition, and b) these are the ages closer to the
entrance into the school system, thus making it possible for there to be
continuity between education in the preschool and primary school ,phases.
These guidelines also state that, in accordance with the current socio- /
political policy of the federal government, children of the urban periphery,
where the problems are greater, will be given priority. "In general, the
children of the rural area have a more balanced environment and easier
satisfaction of the needs of food, greater harmony with their Rarents, etc.
But they should not remain excluded from pre-school planning."
All programs in child care in Brazil., be they initiated by the
Ministries of Health or Education, the states or the municipalities, or
private agencies, espouse an "integrated" approach, which includes education,
nutrition and feeding, health care, and family and community participation,
for the global and harmonious development of the child and his environment.
One of the major dilemmas in child care is the quality vs. quantity
issue. With limited financial, physical and human resources, the question
becomes how to offer the best care to the greatest number of children. The
Ministry of Education handbook presents its answer as a challenge to provide
for both. A small elite should not be created among the underprivileged
children, nor should services be diluted beyond effectiveness. All children
should have the opportunity to develop their potential.9
Children are fed different foods in child care centers in order to meet
their food needs, but besides receiving diet supplements the children also
learn to eat new foods. There is an attempt to introduce unfamiliar foods
to the children, and to establish good food habits. The Ministry of
Education handbook recommends that (a) good quality foods of the three
basic categories be offered, in varied preparations, with emphasis on those
foods not customarily consumed, although they are available; (b) gardens of
families and of the community or school produce food for the child care
center; (c) the child care center provide nearly one-third of the daily
nutritional requirements for children, principally protein and calorie
The LBA (mentioned previously) is a national social welfare agency
/ directed to mothers, children and families. Founded in 1942 as an autonomous
foundation, it is now under the authority of the Ministry of Prevision and
Social Assistance. The president's wife is the official president of the
organization. The national headquarters is in Rio de Janeiro and each
state has an office. The LBA finances are drawn from the following sources:
federal, state and municipal subsidies; contributions by individuals and
legal entities under public and private law; estate duties and other
resources defined by law. For the implementation of its programs, the LBA
has contractual arrangements with official and private bodies. Its programs
are divided into four departments: social service, vocational training,
medical care and legal aid.
LBA is the leading institution providing child care. It has a large
program of Unidad Casulo--"Cocoon Unit"--meaning integrated day care centers
for children under 6 years of age. Nationwide there were 1200 centers as of
/ October 1978, with an additional 1700 scheduled to open by the end of 1978,
with a total enrollment of nearly 100,000.11
SEach Cocoon has about 30 children, who attend four or eight-hour
sessions. The nursery has ages 0-2; the maternity, ages 2-4; and kindergarten,
ages 4-6. Fewer children in the 0-2 age group attend the nursery because
they require more specialized personnel and equipment, and because parents
prefer facilities for older children rather than for infants, according to LBA.
The budget for the Cocoon program of 1200 operating centers (January
to October 1978) was US $3.3 million. Additional funding of US $4,450,000 has
been granted for the last two months of the year for a total amount of
US $7,750,000 (at the December 1978 exchange rate of 20 cruzeiros to the
dollar), or US $2,672 per center and an average of US $90 per month per child.
These figures are average figures rather than a yearly budget since over
half of the centers would be in existence for only a month or two in 1978.
The nutritional program of each Cocoon is aimed directly at the
participating children, and indirectly at their families. The children
are given at least two meals a day, guaranteeing them two-thirds of their
calorie-protein needs. The mothers receive orientation in the preparation
and consumption of foods in order to form proper food habits.
The Cocoon attempts to complement local resources, rather than be an
imposition on the community. It looks for local social entities; buildings,
equipment, etc., and augments their services and utilization, rather than
creating totally,new infrastructures, systems and bureaucracies.'
The criteria for admission to a Cocoon are as follows:
a) the child must be a member of a low-income family;
b) preferably the mother (or other person responsible for the child)
must be engaged, or intend to engage in work activities outside
c) the family must participate in the Cocoon program;
d) preferably the family must live in the community where the Cocoon
e) in cases of more than one preschool child per family, the Cocoon
should attempt to admit all children of a qualified, needy family.
There is a Cocoon project located in the community surveyed, in the Santo
Andre Community Center of Nordeste de Amaralina. The building itself is;
three stories, made of concrete blocks and is barely accessible by car. A
large area on the top floor is reserved for the church, and other areas are
designated for classroom space for adult education and the day care center,
a large kitchen, an area for'-medical and dental examinations and a storage area.
A day care center was operating in this location prior to its being
designated a Cocoon in November 1978. The additional Cocoon funding has
allowed the center-to improve and expand its operation.
Thirty-three children from 12 families currently attend the Cocoon.
Three mothers are married, the others are separated from husbands or never
married, and all are working outside the home. The average age of the
children is three years old.
The LBA -is contributing a monthly subsidy of US $700, but as of the time
of the survey it was not yet known what the annual budget of the Cocoon
The center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The community organizer and
director of the Cocoon is a former Italian nun. Three other people are
employed to work with the children and provide meals and clothes. Meetings
with the mothers are held to discuss subjects of interest, including child-
rearing techniques, health education, nutrition, home economics and
The LBA also subsidizes other day care centers that are not Cocoon units.
These are almost always located in the low income communities. An exception
to this in Salvador is a creche annexed to the School for the Study of
Children, located in an upper-class neighborhood of condominium apartment
buildings. This nursery is specifically for infants of maids serving the
upper-class families nearby. The maid's employer pays US $5 per month, and
the nursery receives support from LBA, the neighborhood church women's group
as well as other women's charities.
The Bahi.a regional office of LBA also supports 73 creches outside the
capital city. Each one of these receives 30 to 50 children. Most of these
are located in the larger cities surrounding the capital.
The FUNABEM (National Foundation for Children's Welfare) is the national
agency under the Ministry of Prevision and Social Assistance charged with the
welfare of children. Each state has its own agency which represents the
national organization, although the name varies from state to state. FEEM
(State Foundation for Children's Education) in Rio de Janeiro operates three
day care centers and two orphanages and subsidizes eighty creches. Its
three day care centers have a total enrollment of over 1000 children aged
0-6 years. All mothers are gainfully employed, the majority as domestics.
A model day care center, one of the three FEEM facilities, is located
in Jacarepagua, about forty-five miles south of Rio de Janeiro, in a housing
project called Cidade de Deus. The population of this community (45,000)
was relocated from slums in the city of Rio. The "Maria Beralda Creche" has
been functioning for ten years. The current capacity is for 236 children,
although slightly fewer are in attendance on any given day. There are over
fifty employees, some of them part-time. As evaluated by Patricia Burness,
an American early-childhood education specialist, the services are excellent.12
The director estimated the cost of the center to be US $100 per month per
The municipality of Sao Paulo has the most extensive child care facilities
of any city in Brazil (with a population of over 8 million, it is the largest
city in Latin America). COBES (the Social Welfare Coordination of Sao
Paulo city government) started an Infant Centers Project in 1971. Its
eighty-six creches serve some 9,000 children with the following facilities:
a) 17 centers constructed by the city and maintained by other agencies;
b) 57 centers that are privately operated, with subsidy from the city;
c) 4 centers constructed and maintained by the city;
d) 8 centers privately maintained, with technical assistance from the
In all cases,.these centers receive orientation and are supervised by
COBES. They receive children aged 0-6 years, in varying daily schedules,
from poor families with an income of 0-3 minimum monthly salaries.
(0-US $240)., The adult/child ratio is established as: 0-1' year, 1:8;
1-3 years, 1:10; and 3-6 years, 1:20. Mothers contribute a token fee of
US $0.50-2.50 per month.
COBES plans to encourage more creches by subsidizing small local
community efforts. "Mini-creches" of 30-60 children in each center would
reach more families at a lower cost per child to the city, and would be a
contribution to the community effort.
In both Sao Paulo state and city, the CEAPE system functions with 42
programs (CEAPE--Center for Education and Feeding of Preschool Children).
The CEAPE system is closely affiliated with the primary schools, whether
they be state, municipal, private or federally supported. The intent iS to
utilize 'existing resources in the community, such as the playgrounds, class- v
rooms, and kitchens of the primary schools, for preschool-education and
feeding. Attention is-directed toward the younger brothers and sisters of
children 'already registered i;n the school. Food is donated by the National
School Feeding Campaign and the state government. Mothers participate
actively in the program, and are required to donate several days a year to
assist with food preparation and supervise children's recreation. The
ongoing school feeding program provides an existing network of transport,
storage and kitchen facilities for the CEAPE program. This system is being-
replicated with some variations in Belo Horizonte, Recife and Caruaru.
State governments are sometimes active in the child care field. For the
state of :Bahia the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare (SETRABES)
attends to the needs of community development through community centers.
Supported by federal -funding; Urban Social Centers are being constructed in
the major urban centers of the state, and in some of them a child-care center
Another SETRABES effort is the Infant Orientation Home (COI) in the
community cen-ter complex of the Alto das Pombas neighborhood in Salvador.13
One hundred children three months to six years of age attend in half
day sessions, although a few attend all day. The community center complex
also'offers programs for older children, teenagers, mothers and parents
groups and vocational courses.
The COI day care center is ad example of an institution that'has
actively sought resources from several sources since its inauguration in
1976: Social Volunteers of Bahia, SETRABES, LBA, the State Secretariat of
Education and Culture, the National Program of Supplementary Feeding,
the National Campaign for School Feeding and the Health Foundation of the
State of Bahia (FUSEB). For the most part these institutions have con-
tributed personnel -rather than operational funds to the COI. The personnel
include: two social-workers, a medical doctor, two teachers, a psychiatric
intern, a nutritionist, a drama organizer, a recreation specialist, a
teachers advisor, an administrative assistant, a cook, a maid, a guard, an
inventory control person, two kitchen assistants, an attendant, two monitors,
and two errand persons.
The budget and sources of major contributions to the COI project are
1975 80,000 Social Volunteers of Bahia
1976 400,000 SETRABES (personnel)
1977 480,000 SETRABES (personnel)
CNAE (food for 50 children 4-6 years)
i1,660,000 (=US $83,000 at 20 = $1, approximate December
1978 exchange rate)
These figures do not show the contribution of other agencies solicited,
nor any community funds received. It was noted on the annual report that
a bazaar, theater, folklore presentations and arts, crafts, plant and
Christmas shows brought local contributions. The parents make token
monetary contributions to the center as well as providing vegetables.
An interesting facet of this child care center is the special program
for laundresses and their children since this is the major occupation of
the women of the neighborhood. The community center complex includes public
laundry facilities, but the lack of water is a constant problem. The center
organizes special activities for the laundresses' children who accompany their
mothers to the laundry.
The "spontaneous" creche is very common throughout Brazil, and was
studied in the Bahian neighborhood of. Pernambues. A "spontaneous" creche
/refers to the existence of women who open their homes to take in children of
working neighbors, with payment or reciprocity. These women offer mothers a
convenient, trustworthy location for their children during their absence,
and the women try to maintain at least a minimum of hygiene and attention
to the children. The average woman who opens her home for a creche is 56
years of age. In 20% of the cases she lived alone. In 25% of the cases she
has no children of her own, and she shows both the disposition to undertake
the responsibility of children as well as the economic need to do so. Of
the twelve women who had creches, four had adopted abandoned children.
S Reciprocity is an important element of the survival system for families
in low income neighborhoods. In the case of child care, the mothers pay a
small monthly fee to the woman for her services, and must also contribute
milk, cereals, sugar, soap, talcum powder and the other items for her
children. In urban Brazil, neighborhood friendships have taken over
responsibilities formerly met by the extended family or kinship group,
according to Machado.
The existence of neighborhood "spontaneous" child care homes was also
documented in the Nordeste de Amaralina survey. Three women declared that
they were paid for receiving neighbors' children in their homes.
A study by the Secretariat of Labor and Administration of the State of
Sao Paulo concerned 500 women employed by industry (laborers, teachers and
clerks). Only 1% of-those interviewed leave their children in day care
institutions,'21.6% leave their children alone, and 46.6% left them with
relatives. The percentage of women who leave their small children alone,
was greatest in the case of laborers, the same group that accounts for the
largest number of women with children.15
Nordeste de Amaralina
The majority of women of Nordeste de Amaralina prefer to leave their
children under 7 years old in their home with relatives, most frequently
with a grandparent of the children. This is very common among women who,
when they need to work, leave their children with an in-law or grandmother
who because of advanced age cannot or does not need to work (see Table 4-1).
In the absence of the child's grandparent, children less than 7 years
old are left home with older siblings, frequently an older sister, an
arrangement which interferes with the daughterss wor tk study. Other forms
of care are only used when the woman who works outside the home cannot count
on an older daughter or a grandparent. While some mothers.may leave children
home alone, at home with a maid, or in the care of a non-relative who is paid
to care for the children, mothers find these to be highly unsatisfactory
MOTHERS' SATISFACTION WITH THE CARE OF CHILDREN,
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Child Care Arrangement for Working Women
Children Younger than Total Unsatisfied- Satisfied
7 Years Number % Number % Number %
At home alone 7 4.7 6 85 7 14;3
At home with sibling
older than 7 years 42 28.4 17 40.5 25 59.5
At home with other relative 51 34.5 7 13.7 44 86.3
At home of other relative 21 14.2 '5 23.8 1'6 76.2
At home of paid person,
(not a relative) 5 3.4 4 80.0 '1 20.0
At home with maid 9 6.1 5 55.6 4 44.4
Other 13 8.8 2 15.4 11 84.6
Total 148 46 31.1. 102 68.9
As can be seen in Table 4-1, over two-thirds of the women are satisfied
with the forms of care they use. This could be the result of conformity
with the status quo, due to lack of information about other possible ways of
resolving child care, as well as lack of resources for these alternatives.
Those most satisfied with the care they arrange for their children are
those who leave children in the care of relatives, either at their home or
at the relative's home. Those most dissatisfied are the women who leave
their young children at home alone, or at the home of a person paid to look
after them. It can be noted that none of the mothers surveyed have children
in the community child care center and thus this alternative was not
evaluated for satisfaction.
All women surveyed were asked to suggest what form of child care they
would like if they had alternatives. Table 4-2 indicates that a third of
/ them thought a child care center would offer the best care, a fourth thought
children should stay at their own home with a relative. Many thought a maid
should take care of the children in their own home. Others thought the
children should be cared for at a babysitter's, at a relative's home. A few
thought the children should accompany them to their work.
TABLE 4-2 SUGGESTIONS PRESENTED TO RESOLVE THE
CARE OF CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 7
NORDESTE DE AMARALINA 1978
Suggestions Presented Responses of Women
Day care institutions 344 32.5
At home with, relatives 268 25.4
At.home with maids '192 18.2
With competent persons 95 9.0
The home of the paid person (not
a relative) ... 43 4.1
At home with siblings 33 3.1
Take them to her work place 21 2.0
At home alone 16 1.5
At home of another relative 16 1.5
Other 29 2.7
As can be seen in this chapter, childcare is a need for the majority
of low' income women'in this community, and in Brazil in general. As the
economic situation for families continues to tighten under the strain of
inflation, unemployment and underemployment, and the large size of families,
women will continue to actively participate in the labor force. The next
chapter will show the effects of maternal absence and child care on the
health and nutrition of children.
1Ministerio da Educacao e Cultura, Departamento de Ensino Fundamental,
Coordenaao de Educacao Pre-escolar. Atendimento ao Pre-escolar. Vol. 1,
Brasilia, 1977, p. 14.
2"Creche: Opcao para Maes que Trabalham," Shopping News, 26/06/77.
4"Assistencia Tecnica Global--Uma Creche Fantasma," Veja, January 18,
1978, pp. 46-48.
5Burness, Patricia, "Child Care in Brazil," unpublished paper, mimeo,
, Washington, D.C., pp. 4-14.
6lbid., pp. 4-5.
Ministerio de Saude, Secretaria de Assistencia Medica, Coordenagao
de Proteao Materno-Infantil. Creches-lnstruoees para InstalaqTo e
Funcionamento. Rio de Janeiro, 1972, p. 15.
8Ministerio da Educacao e Cultura, Departamento de Ensino Fundamental,
Coordenacao de Educacqio Pre-escolar. Atendimento ao Pre-escolar, Vol. 1,
Brasilia 1977, P. 19.
91bid., p. 16.
10Ibid., p. 69.
llMinisterio da Previdencia e Assistencia Social, Fundacao Legiao
Brasileira de Assistencia, Departamento de Servico Social, Projeto Casulo:
Diretrizes Basicas para Implementacao e Funcionamento, Rio de Janeiro, 1978.
Additional information on administration, enrollment, and budget for the
Cocoon Program nationwide was obtained in a personal interview by Emily
DiCicco with LBA staff in national headquarters, Rio de Janeiro, November
12Burness, op. cit., p. 2-10.
13Secretaria do Trabalho e Bem Estar Social Departamento de Desenvolvimento
Social, Programa de Atuaq o Preventiva Junto ao Menor, "Relatorio".Salvador,
1Machado Neto, Zahid?, "Mulher: Dimensao de Existencia/Dimensao de
Sobrevivencia (Um Estudo de Caso com Mulheres Faveladas)," paper presented
at the Mexican-Central American Symposium on Research on Women, Mexico
City, November 1977, mimeo.
15Cited in, Campos, Maria Machado Malta, "As Creches no Brasil,"
deposition presented April 28, 1977 to the Mixed Parliamentary Inquiry
Commission on the Status of Women, Brasilia, 1977.
HEALTH AND NUTRITION OF CHILDREN
Brazil has an infant mortality rate of 109 deaths of infants under one
year of age per 1000 live births (1975-76), compared to an average infant
mortality rate for Latin America of 84.'
As has been noted, Brazil is a country of contrasts, and the contrast-
ing health status of its children can be seen by comparing the Sab Paulo
area to the Northeast region. Of the ten states and territories where the
infant mortality is greater .than 40% of the total deaths, seven are located
in the Northeast, which points, to this region as an area of very poor health
conditions. According to a report prepared by INAN, the National Institute
of Food and Nutrition, in Bahia, 44% of the deaths are of children under
five years of age, and the Northeast as a region shows 51%, and the figure
for Brazil as a whole is 38%.2
The larger percentage of these deaths result from the combined effects
of malnutrition and infectious diseases. "The association is so strong
that child morbidity and mortality due to infectious diseases can be taken
as an indirect indication of malnutrition."3
According to the INAN report, the "average" diet of the Brazilian
population provides 100% of the recommended calories and 200% of the
recommended proteins. Calories and proteins are obtained by the low income
population mainly through beans, rice, manioc flour, wheat and meat. It was
noted, however, that in the same year that Brazil became the world's
second major exporter of agricultural products, beans rose in price 214%.
"The production of the three basic foods (rice, beans and manioc) is
stationery or even in decline because o the rapid expansion of the agri-
culture sector oriented toward export."
The report concluded that the scarcity of food is not the primary
factor limiting the national dietary pattern. It estimated that 62% of
the Brazilian population had an income which did not permit the purchase
of foods,in the quantity or quality are biologically necessary. The
purchasing power of the population is the principal variable determining
the pattern of food consumption and the nutritional value of the diet.
A Sao Paulo Medical School survey investigated the effects of income
on malnutrition distribution. Among,the lowest income group (less than 0.5
minimum salary per capital 46% of the children were malnourished, and
practically all the cases of moderate and severe malnutrition were found in
this group. The percentage of family budget spent on food was highest among
the low income group, but of course the amount of money spent on food was
highest among the highest income group. Taking as a basis the middle income
group (1.5 to 2.5 minimum salary per capital it was found that the lowest
income group spent only 29% of what it should spend in order to not suffer
severe nutritional deficiencies.5
Batista found the same association between income and nutritional
status. The frequency of malnutrition amonq low income families is five or
six times that of families of higher social classes.
However, the Medical School survey in Sio Paulo found the quantity and
quality of the diet of children lacking regardless of socio-economic
conditions. The average of all income groups showed 21% suffering from
protein deficiency, and 79% from iron deficiency. Iron deficiency extending
to all income groups shows a lack of awareness of nutritional needs in the
higher socio-economic groups as well as the lower groups.7
Comparing the education level of the mothers in relation to the
nutritional status of the children, it was found that the malnourished
child's mother had less education than the mothers of normal children. The
expenditure of income for food, and the intrafamily distribution of food
resources are usually determined by the mother. Sixty-one percent of the low
income mothers distributed food to family members in the labor force as a
priority, rather than to infants and pregnant mothers who should be the
|priority since they are biologically more vulnerable.
The relationship between income and other health indicators is also
documented in the Medical School survey in Sao Paulo. Among those children
with intestinal parasites 76% were from lowest income group (0-0.5 minimum
salary per capital whereas only 36% were of at least the median income group
(2.5 minimum salaries or more). This was explained as probably resulting
from the precarious environmental sanitary conditions and habits of the low
income population. Indeed, a relationship is also demonstrated between
income and the presence nf multiple species of intestinal parasites. Multi-
parasitism was rarely found among children in the income qroup above 1.5
minimum salary per capital. Overall development of the child, particularly
walking and sitting, was found earlier among children of higher income
Breast-feeding is a wide-spread practice in Brazil, although there is
evidence that children are being weaned earlier in recent years. In Sao
Paulo, 75% of the children had been breast-fed at some time, but a high
percentage (46%) had been weaned during the first month of life. Only 23%
of the mothers continued breast-feeding until the sixth month, the month
considered appropriate for weaning to begin, according to the Medical School
Study. It was concluded that early weaning was not due mainly to the fact
S of the mother working outside the home, but rather due to the orientation
given mothers by doctors.10 A study in the Nordeste de Amaralina area of
Bahia showed the majority of children were weaned by the time they were six
months old. Only a small percentage still received maternal milk when they
completed seven months.11
An INAN study of children in Salvador presented the serious nutritional
problem existing in the city.12 Fifty percent of the live births had a
weight less than 3000 grams. Among children less than 4 years of age,
analyzed weight/age, 61% presented some degree of malnutrition, and 20% were
second and third degree. The age group most affected by malnourishment was
that of 24-35 months, where 21% were second degree, and 6% were third degree.
Analyzing these children by weight/height ratios, only 74% were normal.
Nordeste de Amaralina
The survey of women and children in Nordeste.de Amaralina attempted to
determine what the impact of the mother's participation in the labor force
is on the children. The survey efforts were to determine if and how a
child's nutritional status is affected by the mother's working'and by the
care given to-children in her absence.
Table 5-1 shows that in the survey sample there were more malnourished
children than children of normal nutritional status, and that children of /
working mothers are more likely to be undernourished than children of non-
working mothers.13 It is possible that the greater incidence of malnourished
TABLE 5-1 NUTRITIONAL STATUS OF CHILDREN
Children under 7TYears of Age
Nutritional Of Working Of Non-working Total
Status Mothers Mothers Children
Number % Number % Number %
Normal 85 40.1 135 48.9 220 45.1
Malnourished 127 59.9. 141- 51.1 268 54.9
Total 212 276 488
children in families where the mother works is due to a lower economic status
which forced these women to work in the first place. Although their work
increased the family income, it was not sufficiently increased toprovide
better rutrition. Or, it could be that the mother's income was spent for
other items and did not benefit the nutritional status of her children. Or,
it could be that her working interfered with the attention she could give to
her family, such as in the preparation and distribution of food resources
within the family unit.
The amount of time mothers spent away from home did not influence the
nutritional status of children, as can be seen in Table 5-2, according to
the statistical tests performed for women who work away from home fewer than
eight hours and those who were away more than eight hours.14 The percentage
of malnourished children is smaller for those whose mothers work from 8 to 12
0) = 1)
C r | LC\
3- l I -t
00 D -3-
u ul I -3-
hours and not, as could be expected, among the children whose mothers work
4 hours a.day or less. However, the largest percentage of undernourished
children was found among those whose mothers worked more than 12 hours per
day. This might indicate that nutritional status is due not only according
to the amountof time the mother is away from home but due to the family's
socio-economic condition (closely related to the type of occupation).
In studying the period of the day the mother works, it can be observed
in Table 5-3 that the largest percentage of undernourished children is among
those whose mothers work morning, afternoon and night (86.7%). Seventy-one
percent of the children whose mothers work during the morning are malnourished
as are 57.5% of those whose mothers work morning and afternoon.
The lowest percentage of undernourished children is among those
whose mothers work only in the afternoon. This might be explained by the
mother's presence at home in the morning during the hours when the principal
meals are prepared and served to the children.
Cebotarev found 68% to 92% of all women .interviewed in Brazil, Mexico
and Venezuela cited preparation of food for the family as the most important
and unavoidable activity to be done first in the morning.15
Table 5-4 shows that 3 out of 4 children who are left at home alone suffer
from malnutrition. A fairly high percentage of malnutrition is also found
among children who stay at home with older siblings, perhaps because those
siblings are often not much older than 7 and not mature enough toadequately
take care of a younger child. This information is also represented in Figure 5-1.
TABLE 5-4 NUTRITIONAL STATUS OF CfILDREN OF WORKING WOMEN-
BY CHILD CARE ARRANGEMENT, NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Nutritional. Status of Chiildren under 7
Child Care Arrangement Normal Malnourished Total
Number % Number % Number
At home alone- 1 25.0 3 75.0 4
At home with sibling
older than 7 years 10 24.4 31 -75.6 41
At home with other
relative 14 43.8 18 56.3 32
Home of relative 8 50.0 8 50.0 16
Take them to the
work place 1 33.3 2 66.7 .3
Other 4 57.1 3 42.9 7
Total 38 36.9 65 63.1 103
Leaving the child at home with another relative (generally the grand-
parent of the child) or leaving him at the house of another relative
(grandparent or aunt) seems to be the best current form of care for children
under 7 years of age. Smaller percentages of malnourished children were
encountered in these situations, indicating that a relative is more
responsible and gives more care and assistance.
The smallest percentage of malnourished children (42.9%) is among those
that are cared for in some other manner; however, these means are not analyzed,
because the percentages for each are too small to arrive at valid conclusions.
As can be seen in this chapter, the nutritional status of children in
Nordeste de Amaralina is perilous. Due to their low socio-economic status,
many mothers must opt for employment outside the home, and leave their
children at home alone or in the care of another person. Relatives seem
to offer the best care. But,.as more and more women are forced to enter the
labor market, the availability of the extended family is decreasing. This
trend should have serious implications for the health and nutritional status
of young children.
FIGURE 5-1 NUTRITIONAL STATUS OF CHILDREN UNDER 7
OF WORKING WOMEN, BY CHILD CARE ARRANGEMENT, NORDESTE DE AMARALINA
Child Care At home At home At home Home of Taken Other Total
Arrange- alone with with relative to
ment sibling relative work
- Mal- 75.0 75.6 56.3 50.0 66.7 42.9 63.1
Total 4 41 32 16 3 7 103
McHale, Magda Cordell and John McHale, and others. World's Children
Data Sheet. Washington, D.C.: Population Reference Bureau, 1979.
2Ministerio da Saude, Instituto Nacional de Alimentaq3o e Nutriqbo,
"Relatorio Final: Seminario sobre Desnutriq'ro Energetico--Proteico no Brasil."
Brasilia, 1977, mimeographed, pp. 42-43.
31bid., p. 50.
4Ibid., p. 5.
5Escola Paulista de Medicina, Instituto de Medicina Preventiva,
Universidade de Sao Paulo, Instituto de Pesquisas Economicas, "Estado
Nutricional de Criancas de 6 a 60 Meses no Municipio de Sao Paulo." Vol.
II, Data Analysis, Sao Paulo, 1975, pp. 116-117.
Batista, M. F. Prevalencia e Estagios da Desnutrico Proteico
Calorica em Criancas Pre-Escolares na Cidade de S5o Paulo, 1976.
7Escola Paulista de Medicina, op. cit., p. 118.
8 bid., pp. 117-118.
91bid., pp. 110-111, 119.
Ibid., p. 117.
Nogueira, M. R. B., "Aleitamento e Morbidade no Primeiro Semestre de
Vida," unpublished master's thesis, Federal University of Bahia, 1977.
12Ministerio da Saude, Instituto Nacional de Alimentaq2o e Nutriq3o.
"Avaliac;o do Efeito Nutricional do Programa de Nutriqo em Saude," reprinted
from "Planejamento, desenvolvimento e avaliaqo do PNS Brasil 1975/1978,"
presented at XI International Nutrition Congress, Rio de Janeiro, 1978,
mimeo, no page number.
13X12 = 3.764 (lg)L p 0.05 Working women and non-working women.
14(X12 = 0.240 Ig)L; p 0.05 Women working away from home fewer than
eight hours and women who work away from home more than eight hours.
15Cebotarev, E. A. "La Organizacion del Tiempo de Actividades
Domesticas y No-Domesticas de Mujeres Campesinas en Latinoamerica." Paper
presented at IUPERJ seminar "Women in the Labor Force in Latin America,"
Rio de Janeiro, November 1978, p. 16.
COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION AND PARTICIPATION
Women in Brazil participate in community organizations, although their J
role is suaJl.y_ that _of supporter rather than leader. It is only in the two
most densely populated states, Sab Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, that women's
organizations are to be found which have succeeded in attracting a fair
number of women to attend meetings, debates and seminars dealing with subjects,
of special concern to them. The great majority of the members of these'
organizations belong.to the middle and upper strata of society, have academic
qualifications and work in the professions.
The Carlos Chagas Foundation in.Sao Paulo has supported research
throughout Brazil focusing on questions relating to women's participation in
society. Several research projects on women are currently in progress and a
bibliography has been prepared.
Brazilian labor' organizations have been most active in high technology,
male-dominated sectors in Sao Paulo, such:as metals and machinery. Women's
participation in these sectors and labor unions has thus been very limited.
The Catholic Church in Brazil, to which the great majority of Brazilians
belong, has fostered the organization of neighborhood associations to promote
community and human development. Women have participated in Mothers' Clubs
and "base communities"--grass roots neighborhood councils. Particularly
in urban S'o Paulo, these groups have supported the "Cost of Living Movement"
which has brought the practical problems of dealing with inflation to the
attention of public authorities.
Many of these community action groups have campaigned for the establish-
ment of day care centers, improvement in public transportservices, increase
in the number of'schools, etc. The efforts of these groups are directed
toward promotion of self-help community projects, and women have been vital
to their successes.
In Bahia, urban community associations have been less vocal and organized
than in the industrialized south or the drought-stricken rural Northeast.
The Catholic Church in Bahia is more conservative than in Sao Paulo or Recife.
'In Nordeste de Amaralina, the community surveyed, there are three
community centers: the Santo Andre, Cristo Redentor and Padre Miguel. The
community associations which function in them include the Community Council,
parochial councils and mothers' clubs. Women's vocational training classes
are held in eachconcentrating on sewing courses, manicure.and beautician
training, crafts production and cooking classes. For young men, classes in
crafts, construction skills and auto/mechanics are offered. As has been
described in the chapter on child care, an LBA "Cocoon" day care center
functions in the Santo Andre Community Center.
Group discussions were held in conjunction with the household survey
and participants were asked what they expected to happen in Nordeste de
Amaralina in the next five years. About half thought the neighborhood
would improve, less than 10% thought it would get worse, and the remainder
did not have an opinion. When asked what was liked most about the area,
responses were divided among: the location (close to beaches), the layout of
the neighborhood, the climate, the population itself and the work of the
community. When asked if there were a need for more medical attention in
the neighborhood, all agreed there was.
Very little research has been done in Brazil on the extent of women's
participation in the community. The Nordeste de Amaralina questionnaire
did not investigate this aspect in the survey, and thus only a generalized
view can be described in this chapter. Nevertheless, women's participation
to community efforts is vital to what exists, and to programs that might be
planned for the future. Further research on this topic is needed.
METHODOLOGY OF THE RESEARCH
This report is a compilation of data gathered in the field, with Nordeste
de Amaralina as a case study, and regional and national data. All six
countries in the project followed the same general research design, but in
each country the questionnaire and implementation were adapted to fit local
Brazil was selected as one of the three Latin American countries to be
included because it provided a contrast to the other two countries--the
Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation, and Peru, an Andean country.
The Northeast was selected as the research area since it is the most
underdeveloped region of Brazil, and it is the focus of government policies
and programs for development.. The city of Salvador has over one million
inhabitarhts and thus faces the same problems of urbanization, migration and
industrialization as S1o Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and yet is relatively
unstudied compared to these two cities.
The community of Nordeste de Amaralina was selected'as the case study
for several reasons. It is the second largest low income neighborhood in
Salvador. The survey researchers were employees of the Health Center and
thus had access to the community and'knowledge of the area, as well as
personal and professional credibility among the residents. Another advantage
was the existence of a detailed map of the community in 1974, 'and several
unpublished studies of the area.
The data for this study were collected by several methods. Foremost
was the structured.survey of a sample of women residing in Nordeste de
Amaralina. Children of these women were weighed to determine nutritional
status. To complement the information gathered from individual women, group
discussions were held'in the community. The researchers also interviewed
leaders who live and work in the community.
Since the subject of' this research is women, female interviewers were
employed to facilitate contact with the women. All interviewers had high
school education and either-lived in the'neighborhood or knew it well, and
were trained, tested-and selected. Interviews were conducted in the evenings
and on weekends to diminish the likelihood of women being absent from the
The questionnaire was developed using a logical sequence of open-ended
questions asked orally by the interviewer. The same basic questionnaire was
used for women without children, with children over seven years of age and
with children under seven. (See questionnaire sample following the method-
In the absence of official census data for Nordeste de Amaralina, the
Barros study of Nordeste de Amaralinal was used to estimate the total number
of women in the neighborhood. An annual growth rate of 4.77% was used
to approximate the population increase, since this is the growth rate for
the city of Salvador, 1960 to 1970.
The universe of the study was defined as all women of fertile age
(15-49 years) residing in Nordeste de Amaralina in 1978, which totalled
approximately 16,000 women, or about'23% of the total population. Marital
status and the presence of children were not factors considered. It was
possible for more than one woman per'household to be interviewed.
The detailed map of the area in 1974 was on a scale of 1:8000, with
the names of the streets and alleys and the numbering and size of the houses.
The random sample of quadrant technique was selected using the map of the
area, divided into squares of 2.5 cm. by 2.5 cm., so that each square
corresponded to a primary unit, called a quadrant. Eliminating the
uninhabited quadrants, it was found that there were 624 inhabited quadrants
from which the sample for study would be selected. Barros, using the same
size squares, observed an average of-19.7 houses per quadrant and verified
that the number of women of fertile age was 1.6 per house, with 31.5 women of
this age group per quadrant. The maximum difference between the prevalence
in the sample of women of fertile age who work and the population is t 4%,
with a 99% interval of confidence, with the following formula:2
Vp x q/n
The expected prevalence (women of a fertile age who work) is approximately
2.58 =4 = 1,022
Vi100 (0.4 x.0.6)/n
Thus, the size of the sample was established according to the prevalence of
women (15-49 years) who work for pay in Nordeste de Amaralina. A total
sample N of 1,022 women corresponds to 6.4% of the universe studied.
In order to obtain a sample of 1,022 women (15-49 years) based on the
data compiled by Barros, a maximum of 32 quadrants would be necessary.
Quadrants were assigned numbers and the numbers were selected at random.
Quadrants having fewer than seven houses were excluded. Since the number
of women and houses increased in the four years since the maps were drawn,
it was not necessary to cover all the quadrants to obtain the requisite
number of women. After 25 quadrants were studied, the estimated number of
women necessary to compose the sample was reached, and investigation of the
remaining 7 quadrants was not necessary. During the field study, 17 persons
refused to take part in the study (1.54%), and another three who were mentally
ill were excluded from the survey for not being representative of the
population under study.
In addition to the questionnaire, the interviewers filled in note
cards with the name and address of the mother, the number of her questionnaire
and the number of her quadrant. These cards were given to identify each
mother and her children when the children were weighed at Health Center
#9, in Nordeste de Amaralina.
Among the 1,101 children under 7 years whose mothers participated in
this study, 488 (43.3%) came to the Health Center to be weighed. Among
these, 212 (43.3%) were children of working women and 276 (56.6%) were
children of women who did not work.
Two scales were used to obtain the weight of the children, one pediatric
scale for the children less than one year old and one anthropometric scale
for the children older than one year of age. The children were dressed only
in underwear. Weight and age were classified using the Classification of
Nutritional Status for Children 0-6 Years of Age in accordance with the
Gomez criteria based on the standards of Marcondes and collaborators. The
time and resources available did not permit the collection of data such as
physical examination, biochemical examination, etc.
Interviews and group discussions were held with two groups' leaders of
the community in order to obtain additional information related to the
problems of health, education and employment of the population of Nordeste
de Amaralina. A total of twenty-three leaders were interviewed: nine
members of the Community Council of Nordeste de Amaralina and fourteen non-
Two group discussions were held with women residents of Nordeste de
Amaralina. The thirty women who participated in these group discussions all
have their children enrolled in a food distribution program at the Health
The coordinators of all group discussions had a list of questions to
guide the meetings. The sessions were taped with the approval of the
participants. Following the meetings a report was written containing
information that was emphasized by the group or attained general consensus,
and this information was incorporated into the body of this report.
To provide the regional and national picture, a literature search was
conducted in Salvador, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia to locate
materials relating to the research topics. Interviews were held with govern-
ment and voluntary agency personnel and international assistance representa-
tives to discuss their assessment of current and future policies and
programs in child care and women's participation.
IBarros, S. M. P. E. "Utiliza~ao de Recursos de Uma Comunidade de Baixa
Renda Nordeste de Amaralina Municipio de Salvador." Master's thesis in
Community Health, Universidade Federal da Bahia, 1978.
2Colton, T. Statistics in Medicine. Boston: Little, Brown and Company,
1974, p. 162.
FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF BAHIA RESEARCH QUESTIONNAIRE NUI
MSC PAGE 1 of 4
ADDRESS QUADRANT NUMBER
EDUCATION MARITAL STATUS
1- Do you have children?
No (Pass to Question 4)
2- Do you have children older than 7 years?
Yes How Many?
3- Do you have children younger than 7 years?
Yes (Write in the table below the data about the children)
4- Did you adopt children younger than 7 years?
Yes (Write in the table below the data about the children)
Nane of Child Age Relatio
5- Do you receive money for your work?
2 Yes What Type of Job do you have?
SNo (Pass to Question 11) .....__
CODE: L\ Has children < 7 years O Without Children All
r4 Has children 7 years
FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF BAHIA
PAGE 2 of 4
6- Where do you work?
In your house.
Outside your house
Note: Questions 7, 8, 9 and
7- When you go to work, with
10 will be done by wanen who work outside
whom do your children younger than 7 years
Di Leave them alone at home
p Leave them with siblings older than 7 years
L Leave them at home with the other relatives
C Leave them at home with maids
; Stay at home of other relatives
4 Stay at home of friends
p Stay at home of a paid person (not a relative)
,I Stay in day care institutions
,1 Stay in nursery, preschool or equivalent
p Take them to your work place
;j Take them to father's work place
i Take them to other relatives' work place
LI Other (Specify)
8- What time of the day do you work?
,3 Morning and Afternoon
:3 Morning and Evening
i- Afternoon and Evening
Li Other (Specify)
9- How long are you away from home because you work?
rJ Less than 4 hours
,i From 4 to 8 hours
_-[ From 8 to 12 hours
SMore than 12 hours
r(- Other (Specify)
FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF BAHIA RESEARCH QUESTIONNAIRE NUMBER
SMSC PAGE 3 of 4
10- What is the most frequent cause for you to miss work or be late?
Problems with children younger than 7 years
SOther problems (Specify)
Note: Questions 11 and 12 will be done only by women who do not work
11- Why do you not work?
I 1. Cannot get a job
S2. Do not have a profession
S 3. The husband does not like the woman to work
4. Housework impedes
L 5. Do not have good enough health to work
L- 6., Do,not need to work
0 7. The children are too small
tr 8. The husband does not want you to work because you care for
u 9. Cannot because you care for the children
c- 10. Do not want to work
V 11. Other (Specify)_
12- When you go out, with whom do you leave your children younger
than 7 years?
LI 1. Leave them at home alone
, 2. Leave them with siblings older than 7 years
, 3. Leave them at home with relatives
4. Leave them- at home with n~aids
, 5. Take them to neighbors' house
;_ 6. Take them to relatives' house
7-. 7. Take them to friends'house
i 8. Take them to the house of paid person
1 9. Take them to daycare institutions
i 10. Take them to nursery, pre-school or equivalent
c, 11. Take them with you
1-12. Take them to the father's work place
.._13. Take them to the relatives'work place
_ 14. Other (Specify)
FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF BAHIA RESEARCl QUESTIONNAIRE NUMBER_
MSC PAGE 4 of 4
Note: Question 13 will be done by women who do not work or work
inside the hone
13- If you wanted to work outside the home, where would you leave
your children younger than 7 years?
i Would leave them at home alone
SI Would leave them at home with siblings older than 7 years
~. Would leave them at home with relatives
Would take them to neighbor's house
SWould take them to relative's house
SI Would take them to friends' house
Would take them to the house of paid person
Would take them to day care institutions
Would take them to nursery, pre-school or equivalent
Would take them to your work place
SWould take them to the father's work place
Would take them to the relative's work place
FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF BAHIA
PAGE 4 of 4
Note: This question will be done by all women
14- Do you think that a woman should work to help her family?
15- When the woman has small children (younger than 7 years) and
she needs to work, where should her children stay and who
should care for them during the woman's absence?
Note: Questions 16 and 17 will be done only by women who work outside
16- Are you satisfied that your children are cared for while you
17- While you are working outside the home who does the work:
Guidelines for Group Discussions and Interviews
1. Obtain information about the types of jobs held by men, women and
2. Identify factors that hinder children from 7 to 14 years from attend-
3. Obtain information about the existence of technical courses in the
neighborhood, particularly for women.
4. Obtain information about the problems of health most frequently found
in the area and ways to improve the health of the population.
5. Speculate about what ought to be improved in the neighborhood, and what
may happen in 5 to 10 years in the neighborhood.
6. Identify the community organizations of the neighborhood, their
activities, and the participation of women in these activities.
7. Discuss how women take care of their children, and how this affects
their participation in the labor force as well as the nutritional
status of the children. Identify alternatives in child care.
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a paper prepared for work-
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"Mulher: Depoimentos sobre um Trabalho Ignorado." Cadernos de Debate #2.
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February 28, 1977.
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Rio de Janeiro.
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Alimentaco e Nutri ao, mimeo. 1977.
"Relatorio: Programa de Atuacao Preventiva Junto ao Menor." Salvador:
Secretaria do Trabalho e Bern Estar Social (SETRABES), Departamento de
Desenvolvimento Social. 1977.
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Operarias," presented at seminar "Women in the Labor Force in Latin
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