35 Million Escape Poverty – But Can Brazil Overcome Inequality?

It seems that the United Nations campaign to end poverty by 2015 is just another challenge to be accomplished by many countries around the globe, although a few countries are closer to their targets than others.

Brazil, the largest country in South America and home of 194 million people, has captured the attention of the world for its achievement: 35 million Brazilians have escaped poverty over the last decade thanks to its fast growing economy which has consequently enhanced the middle class in Brazil.

Economy Watch wrote:

At least 53 percent of Brazil’s population – 104 million Brazilians – are now part of the nation’s middle class, compared to just 38 percent ten years ago, said an official study by the government on Thursday […..] “If Brazil's middle class formed a country, it would be the 12th largest, behind Mexico,”

Favelas, or metropolitan slum. Source: blog Formae Mentis NGO

But Christian Aid has raised questions about the government's effort to overcome poverty in the 2012 report ‘The Real Brazil: The Inequality Behind Statistics’ [pdf] it examines:

the impact of various anti-poverty measures introduced by the two Lula governments, especially the Bolsa Família grants, the land settlement programme for small farmers, and the earlier rural pension, and finds that they have had little effect on inequality. This is because what really makes a difference to the income of poor people is their wages and, while the Lula government's successive increases in the minimum wage have been important in reducing poverty, they have not narrowed the gap between the top earners and the lower earners.

The Bolsa Familia formerly known as Bolsa Escola was founded in 1995 by Senator Cristovam Buarque when he was the governor of Brasilia. It transformed later to a national program by the Lula da Silva’s administration in 2003-2011.

Brazil poverty figures

  • 16 million is the number of people who still live in extreme poverty – equivalent to the population of the Netherlands, says Christian Aid in ‘The Real Brazil‘ [pdf] in blog Latin America Bureau (LAB).
  • 14% is the percentage of women employed as maids, while many others are restricted to ‘typically female’ occupations such as nurses, secretaries and carers.
  • 35,000 is the number of young people who die each year from firearms in Brazil.

Robson Leite, a Member of Parliament from the state of Rio de Janeiro, wrote on his blog [pt] that Brazil has reached the goal of poverty reduction established for 25 years:

De acordo com a 16ª edição do relatório do Ministério da Fazenda, “Economia Brasileira em Perspectiva”, divulgada no final de agosto, a queda da taxa de pobreza vai atingir 70% em meados de 2014, seja pela ação dos programas sociais inclusivos, seja pelo crescimento de oportunidades no mercado de trabalho para jovens.

According to the 16th edition of the report by Finance Ministry, “Brazilian Economy in Perspective”, released in late August, the decline in the poverty rate will reach 70% in mid-2014, either from the action of inclusive social programs, and from increasing opportunities for young people in the labor market.

Proportion of the poor in percent. Source: <a href="http://www.robsonleite.com.br/brasil-atinge-meta-de-reducao-da-pobreza-estabelecida-para-25-anos/">Robson Leite</a> Blog

Proportion of the poor in percent. Source: Robson Leite Blog

While the above mentioned report warns:

The greater the regional and local inequality, the lower the possibility of escaping inequality through traditional mechanisms – income transfer and generation of formal employment.

Poverty and inequality. Source: OCED, Filips pagnoli blog

Poverty and inequality. Source: OCED, Filips pagnoli blog

The causes of poverty

Among a long list of articles and cartoons, Filip Spagnoli defined on his blog P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc. a series of causes for poverty, such as foreign debt, globalization, lack of economic freedom, lack of economic growth, education, overpopulation, family structure, slavery, and overpopulation:

if we want to reduce the number of poor people we have to know what makes them poor in the first place.

On his last article about rising food prices he gets more in depth and says:

…..Poor people do indeed spend a large proportion of their income on food, which means that increases in prices have a direct effect on their financial situation and can even cause hunger. On the other hand, many poor people make their living in agriculture. Higher prices can mean higher incomes for them. The poor are, however, increasingly urban poor, and for them higher food prices are entirely bad news. So it’s not crazy to blame poverty on rising food prices. According to the World Bank, food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty in 2010-11.

Child labour in Brazil. Source <a href="http://www.un.org/works/sub3.asp?lang=en&amp;id=92">UN website</a>

Child labour in Brazil. Source UN website

Still Brazil is a nation that has a long history with poverty, and which in 2012 has forced nearly 1.4 million children to work, according to official figures released on the World Day Against Child Labor [pdf], June 12.

Child labour in Brazil is a phenomenon of an eminently rural nature. According to the study, the majority of those children work in rural areas, where poverty prevails and schools are few and far between.

It counts 304,415 children between 5-10 years (9.9%) and 755,973 children between 11-14 years (36.6%); while overall, there are some of 1.4 million Brazilian children ranging in age from 5 to 14 in the labour market.

In the case of children aged 11 to 14 years who live in families headed by women
without the presence of a husband, around 12.2 per cent work or are seeking employment. On the other hand, almost 15 per cent of children who live with couples are in the labour market.

While there is ongoing debate over the government effort to overcome poverty in the country, new measures for reducing poverty keep being implemented, such as the Dom Távora and Paulo Freire Projects worth US$56 million in funding by the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The projects “are named after famous Brazilian educators and advocates for the poor, and look at knowledge as the central tool to overcoming poverty”.

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