Brazil’s young scientists face job shortages

Paulo Rebêlo
14 January 2004
Source: SciDev.Net

[RECIFE] A failure by the Brazilian government to provide much-needed new teaching and research posts in universities is preventing many researchers with doctoral degrees from finding suitable employment.

This is the conclusion of a report published last month by the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), based on statements from universities, public institutions and thousands of unemployed new PhD holders.

The report, which was written by the SBPC’s regional division in Rio de Janeiro, recommends a number of moves to improve the situation. In particular it says that new efforts should be made to encourage private companies and universities to hire new PhDs.

“Brazil needs a strategy to educate business people on the importance of high-skilled researchers in their companies,” says Luiz Carlos Scavarda do Carmo, coordinator of development projects at Pontifícia Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro.

Maria Eulália Vares, SBPC’s secretary in Rio de Janeiro, says that a particular challenge is the regional variation in the number of jobs available for those holding doctoral degrees. “Some regions tend to face more difficulties than others when it comes to providing work for new PhD holders,” she says. “This has to be solved.”

The report says that persuading private universities to employ more new PhDs would reduce the pressure for extra government funding for public universities to do this.

Temporary contracts should be offered to new doctorates in public institutions for teaching and research, it says. It also recommends that a support programme be developed in public universities outside large cities to provide a guarantee of a minimum amount of work to newly qualified researchers to allow them to continue their research without leaving to look for better work conditions in cities.

According to SBPC officials, 6,000 doctorates and 25,000 masters degrees are awarded each year in Brazil. This compares to the 40,000 PhDs produced every year in the United States, whose gross domestic product is eight times higher than that of Brazil.

The increase in unemployment in this sector in Brazil is largely the result of cuts in the budgets of federal universities.

About one third of those studying for postgraduate degrees are supported by the government. The SBPC argues that it is irrational to spend so much money producing skilled researchers and doctorates – including their training abroad – without later providing them with a job that allows them to use their skills.

Vares says that it is crucial to monitor the demand for new doctorates in different regions and in different disciplines. In some areas of study, such as mathematics, there are usually more vacancies than candidates. “This is very different from most human sciences, where sometimes we have 40 candidates for only one vacancy,” she says.