Ethanol workers in Brazil: the other side of wealth


1 May 2013


Volume 1 – Number 3

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Fabiane Santana Previtali, Sérgio Paulo Morais and Cilson César Fagiani



The article examines the transformations that the agrarian capitalism in Brazil has been going through, focusing on the sugar and alcohol sector, primarily in the last decades of the twentieth century. The text presents reflections on the migration of the workforce involved in sugarcane farming, especially during the harvest, and shows the persistence of poorly paid manual workers who lack legal rights, which is the predominant reason why the country fits into the globalisation context. Only partial results are presented, because the research is still in progress. The article is divided into two parts and a conclusion. The first part presents the characteristics of the sugar and ethanol sector in Brazil, from its beginnings until today, where ethanol, a by-product of sugarcane, is an international commodity. The aim is to demonstrate how the sector has been restructuring the production process, involving technological innovation, geographic relocation, and foreign capital inflows. The second part discusses labour within the sector, which is marked by seasonality, informality, and poor working conditions, particularly during the sugarcane harvest.


Agrarian Capitalism, Slave labour, Ethanol, Brazil