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Abstract

Sugar cane has remained central to the Brazilian economy, and increasingly so as rising petroleum prices spark an increase in the demand for ethanol. As a world leader in sugar cane based ethanol production, Brazil has a need for low-skilled, low-wage workers in this industry. As petroleum prices rise, and with them the demand for biofuels, the incentives to produce more sugar cane in Brazil have fueled the demand for labor on plantations and in sugar mills. In Brazil's sugar-producing regions of the central and southeastern states, the labor demands in the fields are primarily filled by migrants. However, these migrants are not foreigners, but Brazilians who migrate seasonally from northern and northeastern states such as Maranhão, Bahia, Alagoas, Pará, and Minas Gerais. Although these workers are Brazilians traveling and working in their home country, they face many of the difficulties that international migrants in other countries face, including discrimination, poor wages, and inhumane working conditions. This article discusses theoretical approaches to domestic sugar cane labor migration in Brazil.

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