March 31, 2013— -- Contrary to the U.S., Brazil is not wasting time discussing new ways to protect its border or figuring out how to curb rising immigration.
In fact, Brazil wants to attract several million immigrants to improve economic growth and integration, government officials recently told the Miami Herald.
"We're not after population; we're after talent and human capital," Brazil's Secretary of Strategic Affairs Ricardo Paes de Barros told the Miami Herald. "By opening society, we can accelerate the development process."
At the beginning of the 20th century, nearly 7 percent of the Brazilian workforce was foreign born, according to Paes de Barros. Today, that figure stands at 0.3 percent, an extremely low number when compared to the U.S., where 15.9 percent of the workforce was foreign born, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Nearly half of those foreign workers are Hispanic.)
"We need our foreign workforce to reach a level of 2 or 3 percent," Paes de Barros told Reuters. "That means multiplying our current levels by ten."
Brazil, which currently has a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, had an estimated workforce of 95.21 million in 2009, according to Economy Watch. This means that, taking into account population growth, the country would be looking to open its doors to at least 3 million immigrants.
For Brazil, where the population has been getting older since the 1960s, immigrants can furnish youth, numbers and talent to a workforce that is hard pressed to finish major infrastructure and modernization projects in time for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
With that in mind, the country's National Immigrant Council (Conselho Nacional de Imigração) recently created a special work visa for foreigners who are specifically working on projects related to the upcoming major sporting events Brazil is set to host.
The government, however, is not solely concerned with the near future. Like Chile, Brazil wants to add highly skilled workers to boost their economy, and wants them to stay in the country on a temporary or a permanent basis.
Getting a work visa in Brazil is not as easy for foreign professionals as it is in Chile.
But Brazil's government is pushing for reforms that will help cut the existing red tape associated with getting a visa, and grant a larger number of work permits. Just last year, Brazil saw a 137 percent increase of temporal work permits for foreign born workers.
Who can apply for these visas? According to Andres Saconnato from the Brazil Investment and Business Think Tank, the South American country is not so interested in lawyers or people with social science degrees. What Brazil needs, Sacconato told the Maimi Herald, are doctors, engineers, and people with technical degrees, as it has relatively low numbers of people who study theose professions.
"This country has become isolated from the rest of the world in terms of job markets," Paes de Barros told Reuters, "and that is affecting our competitiveness."