The entry into a postgraduate studies is an achievement for many researchers, but without bag and facing the economic crisis, students resort to informality to finance their studies. Without a formal contract, the young researchers enter the group of 34.7 million Brazilians who are in the informality, according to data from Pnad released this Friday.

In ten years, the number of scholarships offered by CNPq it dropped 68% for the master’s and 80% for the doctorate, due to discontinuity and cuts in the portfolio’s budget, according to the CNPq’s own database. And the values ​​of R$ 1,500 for master’s and R$ 2,200 for doctorate have not been readjusted for 8 years.

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To obtain a scholarship, the candidate cannot have a formal employment relationship. As the value is low, even those who get one are often forced to supplement the budget with informal work.

The scenario of few scholarships for master’s and doctoral degrees made many resort to underemployment. For economist Bruno Imaizumi, from LCA Consultores, it is a reflection of the drop in the promotion of science and the rise in inflation since the beginning of the pandemic, which demands a source of income in the short term, even if with salaries below expectations for professional training.

Discover the story of four graduate students who, given the economic squeeze and the lack of scholarships, give up their time dedicated to academic research, their profession, in order to survive.

“I received emergency aid to help at the week’s fair”

It was in São Paulo that the economist Abraão Tavares, aged 32, began his postgraduate studies. The journey at Unifesp, which began in 2019, took place a year after a failed master’s attempt at UFPE, interrupted by a lack of scholarships.

He then started working odd jobs in constructions in Maceió, as he had technical training in buildings. Working from Sunday to Sunday for months, he saved money to support himself in São Paulo in 2019.

Another bucket of cold water at Unifesp: passed in sixth place, but there were only 3 bags available. He used his savings to live with his cousin in São Paulo, but he couldn’t reconcile with another job under construction. However, everything got worse with the pandemic.

— Between April and December 2020, I started receiving emergency aid to help with shopping for the week’s fair, which helped me breathe a little and eat better. Before, I only had money for basics, such as rice, beans, fruit that was on sale and chicken, because it was the cheapest meat – he says.

Even with the financial help of parents and a project grant received by the Public Ministry of São Paulo for five months, in the amount of R$ 1,100, there was no financial tranquility, and productivity was greatly affected.

Abraão had to postpone his dissertation defense for one semester and, since November 2020, he has been working in the city hall of his city in the interior of Bahia, and can only spend 3 hours a day concerned with research.

“I work 15 hours a day as an Uber to supplement the scholarship”

For the doctoral student in Animal Science at UFPel Patricia Rosa, 42, the amount of R$ 2,200 for the doctoral scholarship was not enough to calmly pass through the economic crisis during the pandemic.

The significant increase in food and in the amount of rent meant that, in May, Patricia paid for a popular car to enter Uber.

– The informal and quick way to get an underemployment was Uber. It’s very exhausting because I have to work a 15 hour journey to make a minimum profit. Then I get home and still have to take a few hours to study – he says.

Every day, it starts running at 6 am and stays behind the wheel until 9 pm to earn R$100 reais, which helps to supplement the house’s bills and pay the R$1,000 rent. When it arrives, the second journey begins, of advancing the thesis.

Between 10:00 pm and 1:00 am, the writing of the work starts, but it doesn’t have the performance that I would like. In addition to being tired, the informal work routine frustrates the researcher:

“It’s humiliating to work like this. When I entered the world of postgraduate studies, I dreamed, but when it came to reaching the edge and earning money, I came across this situation, having to abandon part of my life as a researcher to work with underemployment. I’m going to graduate in a little while and then stay with Uber? reflects Patricia.

“If I don’t get a scholarship by the end of the year, I’ll have to drop the doctorate”

Since graduating in Chemistry from UFPB, 26-year-old Isabela Lira dreamed of teaching. The young woman from Guarabira, in the interior of the state, took her dream to a master’s degree at the university, in 2018, with a CNPq scholarship.

In 2020, he took first place for a doctorate, also at UFPB. However, no scholarships were opened for approved doctoral students, a situation that persisted in the two following selection processes.

— Between the master’s and the doctorate, I was doing odd jobs for correction of ABNT and textual revision of monographs, and I earned R$ 500 per month. I had been surviving on money I collected from my master’s scholarship, but it was running out. As I lived alone and paid my bills, I got an extra tip at a restaurant over the weekend—bill.

And the 12 hours of work on weekends, which guaranteed R$600 in October 2020, became a job with a minimum wage and six days a week, 12 hours.

In February of this year, Isabela received advance notice from the restaurant and, with no income, went back to correcting monographs. But he was unable to return to his doctorate.

— Corrections are now my only source of income and therefore my priority. I couldn’t handle the subjects together, so I locked my enrollment in May. If I don’t get a scholarship by the end of the year, I’ll have to leave the doctorate and try another activity with my undergraduate degree – regrets.

“I do a second graduation to pay what would come for the scholarship”

Internationalist Henrique Magalhães, 28, has made family history twice: in 2016, as one of the first to complete college; and in 2021, for being the first to enter a graduate program. The young man from Campo Grande, in the West Zone of Rio, went on to take a master’s degree in International Political Economy at UFRJ, but none of the 15 students in the class have a scholarship.

Since the age of 22, Henrique has resorted to informality to complement his studies. In 2015, he started giving chemistry private lessons to pay for some school materials — today, he teaches English and History.

In 2020, he started a second degree in Administration to have more chances in the job market and, in 2021, he got an internship in the area that, together with the income from classes, is used to cover the costs of graduation and master’s degree.

— Studying at UFRJ has always been a dream, and even passing fourth place, I wasn’t among the favorites for the scholarship. If I had, I could dedicate myself exclusively to studies, but I need to earn money, so I do odd jobs, give private lessons and do an internship in another area – he explains.

Disenchanted with the lack of support for research in Brazil, for the doctorate, Henrique looks abroad, such as Japan, one of his subjects of study in the master’s, due to greater financial incentives for researchers. According to him, trying for a doctoral scholarship in Brazil is synonymous with going through the same scenario that he is experiencing today.

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