Fighting Poverty in Brasil

Brazil, because of its history of colonization, late development and economic dependence, besides old and recent internal problems, has a large number of people living below the poverty line. Thus, Brazil, representing an emerging underdeveloped country, has a high poverty rate.


According to official data from the Ministry of Development to Fight Hunger from 2011, there were about 16.27 million people in Brazil living in conditions of “extreme poverty” until that year. Living in “extreme poverty” is defined as having a monthly family income below R $70,00 per person. It must be said, however, that poverty is not a condition limited to one region or another, as is commonly thought. Virtually all cities in the country (mainly at the peripheries of large metropolitan centers) have people below the poverty line.

However, it is worth noting that, despite the historical problems, Brazil has been advancing in the area of fighting hunger and poverty internally. According to a report released by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea), the number of people who left poverty in Brazil in 2012 exceeded 3.5 million. In this study, the criterion for extreme poverty was even higher than the one mentioned above: R $ 75.00 per family member.

Another report provided good news: the United Nations Assembly in 2013 recognized Brazil as the 13th country that invests most in fighting poverty in the world in a ranking of 126 developing countries. Thus, the country invests more than all other BRICS members (Russia, India, China and South Africa), but it is still behind nations like Argentina and Venezuela. Overall, according to the report, Brazil spends almost US $ 4000 per year on each person.

The current flagship of public policies for the fight against hunger in Brazil is the Bolsa Família program, which was created in 2003. It is a welfare income transfer policy, in which the government provides subsidies to families in conditions of poverty or misery. Despite its many criticisms and controversies in the political sphere, the program has received praise from sociologists and economists as it spends very little (0.5% of GDP) and contributes substantially to improving the quality of life. Ipea attributes an estimated 28% reduction of the country’s misery in 2012 solely to Bolsa Família.

Recently, a World Bank note revealed that Brazil has been serving as a model and example in the fight against poverty in the world, due to its reduction of poverty, the reduction of dependency on the Bolsa Família alone and the creation of the Cadastro Único, which aims to identify the number of people living in extreme poverty in the country.
On the other hand, there is a large number of people who continue to live on the margins of society in Brazil, a problem that can hardly be solved by the promotion of welfare programs alone. The main challenges are to overcome the problems in the areas of health and education, which have been advancing only timidly, and to increase the professional qualification and the offers of employment in the country.

-by Djamilly R.