Living on Nothing and Surviving in Brazil

 Living on Nothing and 
  Surviving in Brazil

Close to 27 million
Brazilians belong to families who have to
get by on no income at all or monthly earnings that amount to
less than two minimum wages or 400 reais (US$ 130). A mere 5
percent of the overall Brazilian population are members of
families with monthly incomes exceeding 6000 reais (US$ 1933).
by: Artur
Cavalcante

Brazzil
Picture

Eighty seven million Brazilians, of a total of 179 million, belong to families
that survive on the monthly equivalent of no more than five minimum wages.

This is one of the findings
contained in the Family Budget Survey (POF _ Pesquisa de Orçamentos
Familiares 2002-2003), released May 19 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography
and Statistics (IBGE) with reference to the period between July, 2002, and
June, 2003, when the data were gathered. The minimum wage at the time was
US$ 64.43 (R$ 200.00). This figure includes 26,502,399 Brazilians who get
by on no income at all or monthly earnings that amount to less than two minimum
wages.

The study also shows that
89 million Brazilians belong to families that have monthly incomes greater
than the equivalent of five minimum wages. Of this group, 8,945,013 people,
that is, approximately 5 percent of the overall Brazilian population, are
members of families with monthly incomes exceeding 30 minimum wages.

Around 85 percent of the
Brazilian population experiences some degree of difficulty making it to the
end of the month with what they earn. 27.2 percent of them reported great
difficulty. Families spend 93.26 percent of what they earn just to maintain
themselves—13.4 percent more than in 1975, according to the IBGE.

Now and 1975

The economic situation
of Brazilian families has gotten a lot worse since 1975. At that time, families
spent 79.86 percent of their monthly income to maintain themselves; in 2003
this percentage was up to 93.26 percent.

As a result, very little
of what they earn is left over for investments, for example, to buy a home.
The tax burden on family budgets more than doubled, from 5.27 percent in 1975
to 10.85 percent in 2003.

Whereas back then families
could apply 16.5 percent of their monthly income on investments, this percentage
dropped to only 4.76 percent in 2003, according to data from the Family Budget
Survey.

In Brasília, cattle
rancher Leon Santos said he believes that there has been "an impoverishment
of the middle and lower classes." In his opinion it has become more and
more difficult and expensive to buy basic products. "One begins first
by eliminating superfluous items, but now necessary items are being cut, too."

The IBGE study also shows
that the structure of family expenses was drastically modified between 1975
and 2003. As a percentage of total expenses, current outlays rose 13.40 percent,
from 79.86 percent in 1975 to 93.26 percent in 2003. Consumption, which accounted
for 74.59 percent of total expenses in 1975, was up to 82.41 percent in 2003.

In the opinion of shopkeeper
Karina Almeida, from Brasília, the increase in prices messes up people’s
personal budgets. "Electricity, telephone calls, the supermarket, etc.,
which are the basics, are increasing in price, and salaries, in general, are
not keeping up."


Artur Cavalcante works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

Translated
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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