Poverty remains a big problem in Brazil despite end of recession

Global Business

Despite the signs of economic recovery in Brazil, data shows poverty increased last year and unemployment remains high.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.

Maynara da Silva lives in one of the poorest corners of São Paulo’s biggest slum, Paraisópolis, home to around 100,000 Brazilians. She does not have a job and no one else in the family is employed either. They make a little money by collecting aluminum cans for recycling.

Counting a small social grant she receives for her daughter, the family makes about $65 per month to cover the needs of seven family members who all live in their one-bedroom home.

“Every day I go out to look for work and people always say they are going to call me. Hope that will happen someday”, Mayana da Silva said. “In the meantime all I can do is collect the aluminum cans or beg for money. It’s enough to buy milk for the children and rice and beans for us. But sometimes we don’t have money for the cooking gas and need to use firewood instead.”

Brazil is out of recession but the job market remains weak with unemployment above 13 percent, and it’s particularly hard for the poorest and less educated to find work.

According to survey of government data, the number of Brazilians living in “extreme poverty” — defined as making less than $1.90 per day — increased last year. Across Brazil, the number of those in extreme poverty rose 11.2 percent. In São Paulo’s metropolitan region – the country’s economic capital – this number shot up 35 percent.

President of the Paraisopolis Community Association Gilson Rodrigues said that even within the community there is social stratification.

“Paraisolis is very big and within it we also have different social classes. So people in the central areas of the slum, local entrepreneurs, are doing better,” he said.

“But those living in the poorest areas are being hit the hardest. There are many unskilled workers who lost their jobs. We notice the problem through the increased demand for assistance from the community association. People ask for food, for help with transportation, for cooking gas.”

Economic recovery and growth are essential to get people out of poverty, but Brazil’s income inequality, among the highest in the world, has only widened.

Rafael Georges, the campaign coordinator of poverty alleviation at the NGO Oxfam Brazil, said the crises has hit the poor the hardest.

“What happened in 2017 is that in Brazil, the recovery of the economy didn’t actually bring people out of the poverty situation, because they actually tried to place themselves into the labor market through informal work,” he said.

“And the informal work does not provide the same level of income. So now we have the same level of poor we used to have in 2011. So we went back around seven years in terms of poverty.”