Five Million Kids Still Working in Brazil

Five Million Kids Still Working in Brazil

Despite all the efforts by the Brazilian government to end child
labor, there are still too many
children working in Brazil,
according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and
Statistics. A whole one million of these working kids are not
going to school. And 300,000 of them are less than 9 years old.


Francesco Neves


The new numbers released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), this Friday October 10,
reveal a country full of contrasts and surprises. A nation in which there are 1 million children between the ages of 5 and 17
who are working and not going to school. A land where 31.9 percent of the houses have no basic sanitation, but 61.6 percent
have a telephone. A country in which 1 percent of the richest people make more money than 40 percent of the poorest. The
numbers show the inequality of income distribution improving, at the same time that unemployment and bad working condition
present an increase.

Despite all the efforts by the government to end child labor, there are still too many children working in Brazil,
according to the annual IBGE’s Pnad (Pesquisa Nacional de Amostra por Domicílios—National Household Survey). Brazil had in
2002—the year covered by the IBGE study—5.4 million children working. This number represents 12.6 percent of those with
ages ranging from 5 to 17. From these youngsters, 2.14 million were between the ages of 5 and 14. There are still 300,000
children between 5 and 9 who work.

There was a mere 1 percent drop in the number of working children from 2001 to 200s. In 10 years, however, there
was a considerable decrease in the number of kids at work. In 1992, 19.2 percent of Brazil’s kids were working. That same
year, 12.1 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 already had a job. According to Ângela Jorge, IBGE’s
coordinator for work and employment, the improvement is due to the creation of social programs and a better control of the situation
by the government.

It’s illegal for a child to work in Brazil until he/she is 18 years old. There is an exception, however, for apprentices
who might be hired if they are 15 or older. For the most part, children who work in Brazil do it without getting any pay. The
main occupation is in agriculture. The IBGE numbers point out that 59.7 percent of 5 to 14 year old kids working, have an
agricultural activity.

The latest IBGE survey covers 97.9 percent of the Brazilian population. (The country has 177.495.000 people,
according to the IBGE’s latest estimate.) Brazilians from the rural areas of Rondônia, Acre, Amazonas, Roraima, Pará and Amapá
weren’t heard, however. Researchers visited 129,705 houses from all the 26 states of Brazil and the Federal District. The study
was conducted between September 29, 2001 and September 28, 2002.

Basic Sanitation

According to the Pnad, 18 percent of houses in Brazil don’t have running water and 31.9 percent don’t have a septic
tank and are not linked to the public sewer system. If the numbers look bad, they will seem a little better when you know that
in 1992, 26.4 percent of the houses had no running water and 43.3 percent of them had no sewer.

As for trash collection, there was a dramatic improvement in a decade. While in 1992 one third of all residences
didn’t have their trash picked up, this number has fallen to 15.2 percent in 2002. The jump in electricity was even bigger. The
number of houses without electricity fell from 11.2 percent in 1992 to 3.3 percent, ten years later.

The most dramatic increase, however, occurred in the number of telephones. In 1992, only 19 percent of Brazilians
owned a telephone line. Last year, that figure had soared to 61.6 percent. Curiously, 8.8 percent of the residences had only a
cell phone and no wired phone. The main responsible for this boom was the privatization of telecommunications in Brazil
which were all in the hands of the government until 1997.

The presence of computers in Brazil is also growing fast. They appeared for the first time in the IBGE’s survey in
2001. That year, the study revealed that 12.6 percent of the Brazilian families had a computer at home. In 2002, computers
could be found in 14.2 percent of the residence. Between 2001 and 2002, the number of home computers grew by 15 percent,
while there was a 23.5 percent growth in the amount of houses connected to the Internet. In 2002, 10.3 percent of Brazilian
residences were linked to the Internet.

Income Gap

Inequality is still substantial in the country. Forty percent of the Brazilian population with lesser income had an
average monthly salary of R$ 163 (US$ 54). Those on the top, on the other hand, made in average R$ 6,636 (US$ 2212) a
month. The IBGE study also showed that more than half (53.5 percent) of Brazilian workers received last year two minimum
salaries a month. The minimum wage is R$ 240 a month, or around US$ 80. A mere 1.3 percent earned more than 20 minimum salaries.

The inequality also appears when different regions of the country are compared. While the average wage in the
Southeast was R$ 713 (US$ 238) in the Northeast workers had to live with an average monthly salary of R$ 303 (US$ 101).

The average income of Brazilians fell 2.5 percent in 2002. Workers made an average of 636 reais (212 dollars) a
month in 2002. The previous year the average salary had been R$ 652 (US$ 217). The calculation takes into account the
inflation for the period. Women continue to receive less than men doing the same job. In 2002, women workers were making
only 70.2 percent of their male counterparts’ wages. Men were earning in average R$ 661 (US$ 220) while women received
R$ 419 (US$ 140). In 1992, the situation was even worse, with women workers receiving only 61.6 percent of men’s paychecks.

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