Labor & Workforce

Brazil’s Lula pledges to combat gender pay gap in May Day speech

Sao Paulo, May 1 (EFE).- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged during an International Workers’ Day event here Monday to fight to achieve equal pay for women, further raise the minimum wage and create high-quality jobs.

Lula, who governed from 2003 to 2010 and took office for a third term on Jan. 1, leveled more criticism at the Central Bank for keeping its benchmark interest rate at 13.75 percent, saying tight monetary policy was crimping growth and job creation in South America’s largest nation.

“We can’t live in a country where the interest rate doesn’t control inflation. In fact, it controls unemployment in this country because it’s partly responsible for the situation we’re in today,” the center-left head of state said at the Vale do Anhangabau park in downtown Sao Paulo.

Lula, a former lathe operator who began his political career as a union leader during the 1964-1985 dictatorship, thanked workers for giving him “four more years (to) fix” Brazil.

“We’re going to change this country because the economy is going to grow again and create jobs,” he promised.

The 77-year-old head of state devoted a significant portion of his remarks to praising women, lamenting that they continue to be treated “as if they were inferior” and stressing the need to “be tougher against harassment” in the workplace.

“The lack of respect for women at work is a shame … We all know women aren’t weak and that in many activities they’re braver than men,” Lula said.

In that regard, he recalled that his government has introduced a bill to guarantee “for the first time, without commas or periods, that women will earn the same salary as men” for doing the same work.

Lula also referred to two bills unveiled on Sunday – one that would guarantee the minimum wage is adjusted annually at a rate higher than inflation and another that would extend the income tax exemption to workers who earn up to 2,640 reais ($530) per month.

The president said a higher minimum wage even helps the wealthiest Brazilians by increasing the purchasing power of the working class.

He added that he intends to create quality jobs through a broad-based infrastructure plan, noting that to that end he sought to attract foreign investment during recent visits to China, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal and Spain.

Brazil’s unemployment rate currently stands at 8.8 percent, having risen in the first quarter of 2023 due to a slowdown in economic activity that was triggered by an elevated inflation rate and high interest rates.

Despite the current scenario, Lula vowed to achieve even more in his third term than he did between 2003 and 2010, when he left office with sky-high approval ratings.

“I want to prove that over the next four years I’m going to do much more than in my first eight years in office,” he said. EFE


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