Feirantes da Rua Professora Natália Vinhais, no bairro Rio Vermelho, em Salvador, continuam trabalhando durante pandemia

Article published on May 5, 2020

Without registration in the portfolio, they are not entitled to FGTS, maternity leave or any government assistance in case of unemployment. According to data from the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), in the last quarter of 2019, Brazilian informal workers represent 41% of the occupation positions. In Bahia, the percentage of informality jumps to 51%, that is, there are almost 3 million workers, who now face another problem: greater vulnerability to infection with the new coronavirus.

“Informal workers prevail among street vendors, street vendors, in the street trade in food, clothing and handicrafts, services by application and, therefore, may be at greater risk of airborne diseases and contaminated surfaces, such as covid-19”, highlights Cleber Cremonese, professor and researcher of the Integrated Program in Environmental and Worker Health (PISAT) of the Institute of Collective Health (ISC / UFBA).

With high transmissibility by droplets released during coughing and even during speech, SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes the current covid-19 pandemic, can remain active for a long time on different surfaces. Even those who are not symptomatic can also transmit the virus through contact with other people or contaminated materials.

According to the professor, several occupations are at risk at the moment, regardless of formal or informal ties, but the consequences of the disease on life, family and society will be different for each group of workers.

“Formal workers, when infected or affected by covid-19, will be covered by social security (sickness benefit) or accident (work-related) compensation benefits and current labor guarantees. But the informal ones will be without protection for unemployment or for the significant loss of earnings at work ”, he evaluates. The situation is less critical for those who contribute to Social Security, under the condition of self-employed or individual microentrepreneur.

Risks and precautions

Most informal workers are classified as having a medium risk of infection with the new coronavirus, according to a technical note from the State Public Health Emergency Committee. They are marketers, farmers, street vendors, manicurists, hairdressers, food service workers, application workers, motorcycle couriers, motorcycle taxi drivers or any other worker who works in close contact with potentially infected people.

In the context of social isolation, many marketers and farmers, for example, continue to work not only to guarantee their own survival, but also to provide food to the population. “They are the ones that guarantee access quickly, at a lower cost and relatively close to many homes, on the street or neighborhood of each one of us”, highlights Cremonese.

In view of these risks, the Company of Technical Assistance and Rural Extension of the State of Minas Gerais (Emater-MG) developed a booklet with guidelines for preventing covid-19, exclusively aimed at marketers. Recommendations include setting up tents at a minimum distance of three meters from each other and protecting products with individual packaging or some form of general physical barrier, such as a transparent plastic over the exposed products.

“The fundamental recommendation is the individual protection of all marketers with the use of masks, glasses and a cap, in addition to frequent hand hygiene with gel alcohol”, warns the professor.

The formal food industry has also increasingly used informal workers such as motorcyclists and cyclists to guarantee deliveries and, therefore, the closing of the business cycle. In this case, the breaking of the virus transmission chain can only happen if both sides, the customer and the delivery person, carry out protective care and personal hygiene actions. “Deliverers, for example, need to use all the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), such as a mask, glasses and disposable cap”, notes the professor.

It is also recommended to avoid contact with money, prioritizing the online payment of customers, as well as the delivery of orders at ordinances, when possible, or to maintain a distance of 1.5 meters between delivery man and customer. Hand hygiene with alcohol gel is essential for every delivery.

“Cyclists and motorcyclists must sanitize helmets (outside and inside), gloves and handlebars / fists with neutral soap or gel alcohol, frequently, once or twice a day, depending on the workload. In the difficulty of finding taps, water and soap, the 70% gel alcohol tube is an indispensable item and should always be provided by employers ”, he adds.

Sense of opportunity

According to the IBGE’s National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), in July 2019, approximately 4 million Brazilians had as their source of income, partial or total, the provision of services through transportation (app) applications, delivery of products or food. “Perceiving the current economic scenario, this number can be between 5 or even 6 million workers. They are people who have found a way to get remuneration, even without the minimum guarantees ”.

For Cleber Cremonese, the pandemic highlights several vulnerabilities among these informal application workers, such as long working hours, great physical effort, risk of traffic accidents, stress and the absence of guarantees for job protection or social protection benefits. “Without guidance or training on how to proceed, adding to the possible lack or mishandling of masks and glasses, they become a group at high risk of infection during work activities”, he points out.

Social detachment has also created informal business alternatives at home, such as the production of homemade masks, which have become a more viable alternative due to the mandatory use and consequent shortage of the product in pharmacies and specialized stores. “Creativity and the ability to adapt to market demands are the main weapons of informal workers. This just exemplifies the dynamism of informal work, with new daily or weekly strategies, in order to guarantee a minimum income for survival and that of their families ”, says the professor.

Aid and distancing

Due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, the federal government approved an emergency aid of R $ 600, for three months, aimed at informal Brazilian workers. The amount began to be released on April 9 by Caixa Econômica Federal. Of the 92.8 million CPFs analyzed by Dataprev (until April 28), 50.3 million are eligible to receive the amount. One of the requirements is not to have a formal contract.

“The benefit does not guarantee social distance, nor will it stop workers from trying to carry out their work activities”, points out the professor. The difficulty, according to him, may be the lack of minimum economic reserves by workers and the high level of indebtedness, such as installments of credit card, installments of house, vehicles or furniture.

The Consumer Debt and Default Survey (Peic), conducted by the National Confederation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism (CNC), indicates that 65% of Brazilian families were in debt in December 2019.

For the professor, the aid guaranteed by the federal government will allow, at a minimum, the purchase of some basic food items and hygiene products. “With the lack of other support strategies in the medium or long term, the trend is to see an increase in the return of these workers to activities”.

In his assessment, the current situation of these workers is the result of a long process of precarious work, which was aggravated by the outsourcing law (No. 13.429 / 17), labor reform (13.467 / 17) and pension reform (EC 103/19). To change the scenario, it is necessary to invest in public policies that design and guarantee rights, including for workers who do not have a signature in their portfolio.

“Informal work keeps alive citizens who make up an important part of our country’s economy. And that is, above all, vital, as it allows the minimum of comfort and the provision of basic needs for all of us ”, he concludes.