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Shorter Lives

Shorter Lives

The fecundity rate has declined dramatically from the 60s and 70s
when every Brazilian woman had an average of six kids.
By Elma Lia Nascimento

Due to an increase in violent death victimizing youngsters and children, men in Brazil,
according to the latest data from the IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e
Estatística—Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) have lost three years
in their life expectancy. This information is revealed in the 1999 Social Indicators
Synthesis. While life expectancy is 68.1 years for the population in general, women should
expect to live 72.1 years compared to the 64.3 years for men.

The good news is that life expectancy has increased for six years since 1980 when
Brazilians were expected to live 62 years. But such results have also to do with where
Brazilians live. While southern Brazilians can expect to live up to 70.6 percent, those
born in the Northeast shouldn’t expect more than 65.1. Even here there is some good news
when we know that the gap between North and South used to be larger in the past.

The IBGE study reveals that in 1998 around 70 percent of the deaths of youngsters aged
15 to 19 were not natural. In the Midwest, 49.3 percent of the kids who died between the
ages of 5 and 9 had violent death. In the state of Roraima the percentage of kids who
suffered violent death was 54.5 percent, the highest rate in the country for children 5 to
9 years old.

The rate of demographic increase has stabilized around 1.3 percent, the same it was in
1997, with projections that this rate will continually fall to 1.1 percent in 2010 and
then 0.8 percent in 2020. The fecundity rate (there are now 2.4 children per woman
nationwide) has declined dramatically from the 60s and 70s when every Brazilian woman had
an average of six kids. The numbers also show that the more educated the woman the less
children she has. The lowest fecundity rate was registered in Rio; where there is in
average 1.9 kids for every mother.

After decades dealing with the challenges of educating and offering jobs to its youth,
Brazil will more and more will face the problem of the growing number of elderly. While
there are 13.2 million people over the age of 60 today (7.8 percent of the population),
this contingent should grow to 30 million by 2025, according to IBGE’s projections.

Finding jobs will continue to be a challenge in 2025, instead of 104.5 million people
looking for jobs, Brazil will have 138 million searching. Just getting a job would not be
enough for those who are trying to find a place to work today. That is because 30 million
who have a job are making less than the monthly minimum wage, which is $84 today. The
average income for the upper 10 percent of workers today (7.6 million Brazilians) is
$1378. 40 percent workers on the bottom level make an average of $70 a month.

The color factor is also more than evident in income distribution. Twelve percent of
families whose head of household is white survive with half of the monthly minimum wage
per capita. In families headed by blacks there are 30.4 percent of them that have to live
on the same amount. The IBGE data also reveal that the illiteracy rate for whites (8.8
percent) in Brazil is almost three times larger for blacks (21.5 percent).

According to Sérgio Besserman Vianna, IBGE’s president, " The inequality is
apparent in any aspect that we observe: income, region, sex, race. Several social
indicators improve but the inequality does not decrease. This is a constant trait of the
Brazilian society, which is not the result of the present circumstances but of 500 years
of an unjust history."

Among the positive data revealed by the new IBGE report is the fact that 94.7 percent
of children between the ages of 7 and 14 are in schools today. This does not hide the fact
that 30.5 percent of Brazilians who are 15 or older are functionally illiterate, incapable
of understanding simple forms or medicine information, as an example.

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