Article | Contradictions, gender and care in the reform of the

Recife, the capital of women, which in the last census represented 53.7% of the population and was the first capital in the country to establish parity between men and women at the top level – an important fact of which the municipal administration is proud – a serious contradiction it presents itself on the horizon of reducing gender inequalities: more work and fewer social security rights for female servants, an overwhelming majority in the civil service.

Created at the end of the 1990s, the Recife Municipality’s Own Social Security Regime emerged with the objective of ensuring effective public servants the benefits of retirement and pension on death, and arises from the untying of municipal social security from the IPSEP (Institute of Social Security of the Servants of the State of Pernambuco).

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Between 2001 and 2005, the Recife social security system underwent several restructurings, among which the ones that took place in 2005, with the creation of the RECIPREV and RECIFIN funds, stand out. In addition to the creation of the two funds, there was an increase in the municipal social security contribution rates (15.94%), for civil servants, retirees and pensioners with earnings above the ceiling of the General Social Security System (12.82%).

Now, in 2021, the Recife Municipality’s Own Welfare Regime has undergone a much more profound change in its structure, approved in record time by the City Council, under protests by parliamentarians and public servants, who demanded more time to talk about the “Reform of Municipal Social Security”. The mayor sent to the Chamber a package of Laws of his own initiative, which included a Bill of Amendment to the Municipal Organic Law, a Complementary Law Bill and three Ordinary Law Bills, in order to “adapt to the new rules imposed by the Social Security Reform National (Constitutional Amendment No. 103/2019), and to increase the Municipality’s investment capacity in health, education and infrastructure works in the neighborhoods.”

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Among the changes in municipal social security effected by the approval of this package of norms are: a) the increase in the contribution rate for municipal public servants to 14%; b) the increase in the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 years; c) temporary aid no longer has a social security nature and is now paid directly by the Municipality; d) change in the criteria for voluntary retirement, with emphasis on the increase in the minimum age; and, e) change in the calculation of the amount of retirement and pension benefits.

The most relevant point from the point of view of gender and labor relations, present in the criticisms made by women parliamentarians, is the increase in the minimum age for voluntary retirement for municipal servants. Prior to the approval of Law 18.809/2021, civil servants in Recife could retire as follows: a) at 55 years of age plus 30 years of contribution, combined with 10 years of effective exercise and 5 years in the position where they held retirement, if a woman; and b) 60 years of age and 35 years of contribution, plus 10 years of effective exercise and 5 years in the position where the retirement took place, if a man. Teachers and teachers had a reduction of 5 years in the minimum age in this case. There was also a provision for retirement by age, being 65 years old, if a man, and 60, if a woman, plus 10 years of public service and 5 years in office.

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From now on, there are three forms of retirement under the Recife social security system: a) retirement due to permanent incapacity for work, subject to periodic assessments to verify continuity; b) compulsory retirement, with earnings proportional to the contribution time, at 75 (seventy-five) years of age; and, c) voluntary retirement, with earnings proportional to the contribution time. It is this last way that we need to talk, putting a gender lens in order to understand the problem. Let’s go to the new rules:

New rules for retirement in Recife, according to the pension reform project / Recife Municipal Transparency Data

In addition, by opting for a single rate, the municipality encumbers the family budget of servants and civil servants, as it does not consider the individual contributory capacity of each insured person, which in the end represents a wage loss without actuarial justification. In order to adapt the contribution rate to the national parameter after Amendment 103/2019, the Municipality could have adopted a progressive rate, considering the income ranges of civil servants, who earn an average of R$ 5,524.58 monthly, as was done under the regime of federal welfare.

Although the Municipal Welfare Council points out the reform as more beneficial than the national one, as it brings a minimum age of one year, the municipal reform sets the minimum contribution time at 25 years for civil servants, who at the national level are different terms: 15 years for women and 20 for men. For teachers, in the RGPS, 15 years of contribution time are required, while in Recife, at least 25 years of teaching are required. When compared with previous retirement rules, the situation becomes even more critical: for women, there was a six-year increase in the minimum retirement age and for men, the increase was three years.

Recife currently has 29,288 active public servants, of which 9,666 are men and 19,622 are women, among which at least 8,660 are working in paid care activities, such as teachers, health agents, nurses and nursing technicians. The women who take care of educating Recife citizens in the city’s schools and those who take care of our patients are the most affected part of the universe of public servants in the city, because in addition to working for pay in life maintenance and education activities, they are subjected to the double shift of care given to women and girls across the planet, due to the sexual division of labor.


Workforce composition graph in Recife / Recife Municipal Transparency Data

Increasing retirement time in a municipality where the number of female servants represents almost twice the number of men, without taking into account the years of life dedicated to unpaid care, is a practice that goes against the discourse of the beginning of the current administration , which was the first in the country to establish gender parity in its secretariats. The situation becomes even more complicated when one sees the justification for sending the reform proposal, which places as important for the continuity of public investments in social rights the need to create obstacles to accessing the social right to social security.

Haunted for more than 20 years by the catastrophic speeches about the social security system, female and male workers are invited to face, without the public debate consisting of inaccurate official data, the 2019 reform, a new big step back started in the 2003 and 2013, without forgetting the other tax reforms that affected the insurance system, such as the tax liability law.

The article intends to show that the dominant ideology that pensions need reform is false. Despite workers’ resistance, this ideology has been gaining adherents for over 30 years. One of the main reasons for its ideological success lies in the fact that the debate on pensions remained closed in a strictly accounting logic, which boils down to researching a balance between income and expenses. But the issue of pensions brings into play other dimensions, those related to employment and working conditions. It is not possible to approach the issue of pensions without thinking about its reverse. Especially in a society gangrenoused by unemployment and precariousness. The issue of pensions also invites us to project the future, since the world of tomorrow will not be composed of retirees: the place that will be made for some will depend on those others. Retirees are not all on an equal footing. There are rich and poor, women and men, wage earners who are precociously used for work and others who are less exploited. Finally, everyone’s future must also be thought of in a more global chain, taking into account the exhaustion of certain natural sources and the damage caused to the environment engendered by productivism.

Can we seriously think about the future of pensions over a two-generation horizon without addressing the aforementioned issues today? This is why the debate has been going on for over 30 years.

The municipal social security counter-reform process in Recife was not preceded by an effective debate with the social actors involved (or, considering the expressive number of female servants, we should name ‘social actresses’). Carried out during the covid-19 pandemic and within a period of less than 30 days, the counter-reform will reach a group of female servants that is more than double the male group. Of these, 4,977 are female teachers, approximately ¼ of the civil servants, affected by the increase in the minimum age and by a longer contribution time than in the national system. Care workers, in turn, represent 44% of all servants, and, in addition to performing paid care work, they are also affected by unpaid care, which is not considered when setting retirement criteria.

The changes introduced were not preceded by an actuarial study and, therefore, it is not possible to assess the actual budgetary impacts necessary and/or possible within the municipal reality. The greatest impact will be felt by female municipal servants in Recife, extending the effects of gender inequality and the sexual division of labor for another generation.

Pension reform may be needed because we see no reason for our social protection system to be frozen for the next 40 years. Social Security was a living construction that took into account the transformations of our society. She needs bigger choices that must debate the serenity and not under the blow of the emotion created by the numbers.

The current debate does not provide an answer to the programmed degradation of our pension system, but, on the contrary, it deepens this regression. In order to avoid the catastrophic scenario, we intend to outline a solidary reform, based on the satisfaction of priority social needs and on the need to reduce working hours. This perspective may be utopian, but it is necessary, it is sustainable from an economic point of view.

*Juliana Teixeira Esteves holds a PhD in Political Economy at IRES/France, Member of the National Network for Research and Extension in Labor Law and Security (RENAPEDTS) and Professor of Labor Law and Social Security, at UFPE.

**Larissa Ximenes de Castilho is a Doctoral Student in Law at the Federal University of Pernambuco and Professor of Labor Law and Social Security at UNINASSAU/Recife.

***This is an opinion piece. The author’s view does not necessarily express the newspaper’s editorial line Brazil in fact.

Source: BoF Pernambuco

Edition: Vanessa Gonzaga

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