Labour Laws in Brazil and South Africa No Barrier to Rights Violations

Despite comprehensive laws, labour standards in Brazil and South Africa are a cause for major concern, according to two in-depth reports released by global risks intelligence firm Maplecroft.

The Labour Standards Reports for South Africa and Brazil detail the risks for businesses operating, investing or sourcing in these countries and are designed to help organisations create mitigation strategies against damage to brand reputation and profits.

The reports contain comprehensive analysis focusing on the key areas of labour standards: child labour, forced and involuntary labour, trafficking, freedom of association and collective bargaining, discrimination, working conditions, health and safety, labour contracts and compensation. This is supported by country overviews, risk indices from Maplecroft’s Global Risks Portfolio, sub-national maps charting violations, recent events, demographic breakdowns of labour markets, and stakeholder views.

Brazil is often referred to as one of the world’s most heavily regulated labour markets and the country’s constitution includes over 2,000 national laws and regulations, 81 ratified International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and over 30 health and safety norms. However, Brazil is rated as extreme risk in all Maplecroft’s labour rights and protection risk indices, ranking 17 out of 196 countries and coming well below regional averages.

Threats of particular importance to companies with interests in Brazil include: high labour costs resulting in a high percentage of informal labour; a large pool of child labour, especially in the agricultural and domestic sectors; and high levels of indebted/slave labour in the agricultural sector, especially in the states of Para, Moto Grosso and Golas.

South Africa also has many core labour rights embedded in the constitution prohibiting discrimination, forced labour and the use of child labour. The reality though, is that many of these rights are unenforced. The country is rated by Maplecroft as extreme risk for trafficking and discrimination and as high risk for child labour and forced or involuntary labour.

South Africa is a hub of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour. Women and girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic service and jobs in the service sector, while the trafficking of young men and boys for forced labour is widespread in the agricultural and informal sectors. HIV/AIDS has also increased the number of children who need to support themselves and their siblings.

Discrimination is also a problem, especially for women and Africans; even post-Apartheid. Africans are the most economically inactive demographic and the least likely to be employed. Women comprised 41% of the working population but held only 16.8% of executive-level and 11.5% of director-level positions.

“The situations in both countries have improved in some areas, due to new regulation, but businesses need systematic policies in place to ensure labour rights violations do not negatively affect their investments and brand,” said Monique Bianchi, a human rights analyst at Maplecroft. “Complicity with companies operating irresponsibly is a real and tangible risk. These reports, along with careful supply chain monitoring, can help companies avoid some of the pitfalls that poor labour standards can cause.”


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