Friday, September 26, 2008

Brazil Becomes Middle Class

The Economist reports today that Brazil, with a population of 170,000,000 (an under counting of 3.3% according to the US Census Bureau's projections) has officially become a middle class country.

A person is, apparently, officially defined as middle class if they have:
  1. a job in the formal economy
  2. access to credit
  3. ownership of a car or motorbike
According to Brazilian non-profit group FGV, more than half of the Brazilian population now meet these criteria.

Notable features of this move to middle-classdom include:

  • 52% of the population now earn between £350 and £1,337 per month; in 2002 the figure was 44%
  • Poverty (defined as living on the minimum wage) has declined from covering 52% of the population 15 years ago to 38% today
  • Extreme poverty (defined as surviving on less than 50 pence per day) has also declined over the same period from 8.8 % to 4.2 % of the population
  • The reduction in extreme poverty in Brazil has met one of the Millennium Development goals set out by the UN in 2000

Increases in rates of education (Brazilians now spend three years more in school than they did in the early 1990's) and in jobs in the formal employment sector are cited as the main factors contributing to the country's economic progress in recent years, a trend which has been evident over several decades.

It was as recently as 1985 that Brazil, Latin America's most populous country, finally left behind its reliance on military-backed governments and began its current uninterrupted journey towards democratic government.

In some ways, the transformation of Brazil is embodied in the life of its current president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Born into an illiterate peasant family in the poor north-east of Brazil, he moved with his family to Sao Paolo when he was seven, working as a shoe shine boy and learning to read at the age of 10. Becoming a metal worker, he lost a finger in an industrial accident and emerged as a leading trades unionist in the 1970s. His early radical politics have developed into a social democratic platform of reform which in recent years has seen an increase in the minimum wage, the courting of local and international business leaders and significant reductions in inflation and levels of foreign debt.

Selected Brazil Links:

  • Jose Sarmago is the only Portugeuse language writer to win the Nobel prize for literature. At age 85, he's also started blogging. It's in Portuguese and Spanish, but I'm sure Babel Fish will help you if you ask nicely.
  • Daniel Duende Carvalho shares some thoughts on the state of the blogosphere in Brazil at Global Voices Online.
  • The CIA factbook entry on Brazil contains all the basic stats and figures.

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1 comment:

Daniel Duende said...

Thank you for the highlighting, atlanticwriter. But I would take all these demographics about Brazil with a spoon of sugar. Some people believe they might be biased in many ways, and others present numbers that differ a lot from the ones you showed here.
The whole Latin America, including Brazil, is far more complex than some northerners believe.

Daniel Duende