Similar to any large scale farming and production operation, sugarcane ethanol production requires manpower and machinery. Brazil’s sugar and ethanol mills employ hundreds of thousands of well-trained and dedicated workers earning good wages. Sugarcane cutters are the second highest-paid workers in the Brazilian agricultural sector.
The Brazilian sugarcane industry emphatically opposes substandard working conditions and has committed to policies that maintain a safe and socially-responsible employment environment as it continues to grow. Key facets of that commitment include:
- Government-appointed inspectors constantly inspect rural working conditions industry-wide, on the lookout for any sign of sub-standard working conditions, like improper bathroom facilities or a lack of safety gear.
- Inspectors have the authority to request that workers found in allegedly inappropriate conditions be dismissed. These workers are automatically entitled to three months of unemployment insurance, and the government would seek redress through regulatory and judicial processes.
- Close to 50% of all cane cut in Brazil is now harvested by machines, and mechanization is expected to reach 100% later this decade.
- To help retrain sugarcane workers displaced by mechanization, the Brazilian sugarcane industry and the Rural Workers Labor Union (Feraesp) have joined forces with John Deere, Syngenta, Case New Holland and Dutch NGO Solidaridad to manage a training and requalification program that will benefit 7,000 workers a year. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), based in Washington, DC, also supports the effort.
For more information, see our briefing paper on labor issues and the sugarcane industry in Brazil.