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Barring the Weather, Brazil Is One of the World’s Worst Countries for Expats

Expats experience in Brazil leaves much to be desired There have been some big changes in expat opinions on living in Brazil in the Expat Insider survey. Over the past three years, Brazil has dropped in the overall ranking from 42nd in 2014, to 57th last year, finally landing at 64th this year.

The way expats view their personal finances and the state of the economy, for instance, has worsened quite drastically — the Personal Finance Index dropped from 38th out of 64 countries in the Expat Insider 2015 survey to 59th out of 67 in this year’s survey.

Between 2015 and 2016, the percentage of expats in Brazil who are generally not satisfied with their financial situation increased by ten percentage points to 29% in 2016.

Similarly, the percentage of expats who feel that their disposable household income is not enough to cover everything they need increased by eight percentage points, with more than one in ten (11%) even saying it is not nearly enough to get by.

While the country may be fairly easy to settle into, Brazil is rated poorly in almost all of the indices. Ranking 64th overall, the country performs particularly badly in the Family Life Index.

Expats experience in Brazil leaves much to be desired

It is not surprising, then, that close to three in five expats in Brazil (58%) agree to some extent that they are worried about their future finances.

Indeed, the Cost of Living Index has rated consistently badly, coming 54th this year, with 53% saying the cost of living in general is overall bad compared to just 32% worldwide. What is more, 45% agree to some extent that they have suffered a loss in personal income since moving to Brazil.

Politics and Safety

Possibly linked to the uncertain financial situation is the lack of political stability in Brazil. Just 16% of those asked rate this factor positively, compared to 61% globally.

Similarly, just one in five rates their personal safety in Brazil as generally good compared to 77% worldwide. Indeed, personal safety and political stability were two of the top three disadvantages considered prior to moving to Brazil.

Making a Living

The Working Abroad Index shows another drastic change in opinion among expats in Brazil. From 33rd out of 61 in 2014, the country has fallen to 65th out of 67 countries in this year’s Expat Insider survey.

Expat statistics for Brazil

In the Job Security subcategory of the index, Brazil comes 66th, with 85% of respondents giving the state of the economy a negative review, reflecting reports on rising unemployment and falling real wages in 2015 and 2016.

It seems hardly a surprise then, that 11% of expats in Brazil say they are not at all satisfied with their job security, nearly double the global average of 6%. Similarly, expatriates in Brazil are less enthused about their working hours than respondents around the world (48% vs. a global 61%).

Weather Not Enough

Expatriates can at least look forward to a very good climate and weather, which is regarded negatively by just 8% compared to the global average of 22%. This was actually the most common potential benefit considered by expats before they made the move there.

Unfortunately, the country does not seem to have much else to offer to improve the quality of expat life, ranking 62nd in the respective index. The transport infrastructure, for instance, is considered generally bad by 60% in Brazil compared to just a quarter globally.

In addition, the country only comes in 61st in the Health & Well-Being subcategory: not only is the healthcare considered, on average, less affordable by expats in Brazil — 35% agree it is generally affordable compared to 55% globally — but 36% of respondents are also unhappy with its quality.

Not for Families

Despite a more friendly attitude to families with children — 55% of expat parents go so far as to call it very good in Brazil compared to 39% globally — the education and well-being on offer there fall short.

Just 28% of expat parents find the quality of education to be overall good compared to 64% worldwide. Meanwhile, five times the overall average of parents (55% vs. 11%) fear for their children’s safety at least in some regard. Not least of all due to this, Brazil ranks last out of 45 countries in the Family Life Index.

A Welcoming Place

The local people, at least, are a positive in the lives of expats in Brazil — over four in five rate the general friendliness of the population (85%), as well as the local attitude towards foreign residents (81%), positively, bringing the Friendliness subcategory to 11th.

In fact, around five in eight expats in Brazil (63%) overall agree that making local friends is easy compared to 45% globally. All of this despite the fact that seven in ten do agree that without speaking the local language it is very difficult to live there.

Within recent memory, Brazil has emerged as a new and significant global player, both economically and politically. Although Brazil had enjoyed a period of perpetual economic growth, which, combined with its laid-back lifestyle and favorable climate, have caused ever increasing numbers of expat from various fields to consider a move to Brazil, this could be in the process of changing.

In 2014, Brazil experienced an economic contraction for two consecutive quarters, marking the first technical recession in five years. However, despite the third quarter ending the recession with a minuscule growth of 0.1%, both governmental and independent economists have decreased projections for growth in the upcoming years.

Although this turbulence in the economy shouldn’t worry expats too much, it is important to realize that settling down in Brazil and finding a job there has always required a considerable amount of dedication and perseverance, not to mention a bit of good luck.

Nevertheless, many who now enjoy their lives in a bustling metropolis or a scenic coastal city say that getting a visa and moving to Brazil was well worth the effort.

Economic Situation

Brazil boasts the dynamic business climate of one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Despite recent contraction, Brazil remains the 7th largest economy on the globe, becoming such in early 2012. Although economists believed the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 would provide further stimulus to the booming economy, this expectation has since come under review.

The former is thought to have had a negative impact on the economy, as municipal holidays during local games and staff truancy from work to watch the competition decreased production rates and played a role in the aforementioned technical recession.

Nevertheless, Brazil’s reputation as a growing economy continues to be a magnet for both foreign investment and skilled workers from abroad temporarily moving to Brazil. For foreign experts, the country’s pioneering fields of ethanol production – recently flagging, but still firmly supported by the government – and deep water oil research offer attractive career opportunities.

Political Situation

One of the other reasons why moving to Brazil is popular among expats is its reliable political situation. After the abolishment of military rule in 1985, the state has gradually established a stable democratic system. As those moving to Brazil may know, the Brazilians elected their first ever female president in January 2011: Dilma Rousseff, former chief of staff of retiring ex-president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

After facing intense criticism and eruptions of protest concerning accusations of corruption and poor public services in the face of the FIFA World Cup, Rousseff narrowly won reelection in 2015, with just 51.6% of the vote. She has now been impeached and replaced by her vice-president Michel Temer.

You will soon notice the highly unequal distribution of income. While over the past few decades there has been significant upwards social mobility, creating a new middle class, poverty remains one of the country’s major sociopolitical problems.

The crime rate, feared by many who consider a move to Brazil, is relatively high. Although, according to reports, crime has been decreasing in urban areas like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, expatriates should still be careful.

Some expats moving to Brazil, however, report that it is less noticeable in their daily life, provided they adhere to some basic safety rules, e.g. be vigilant at night, rent accommodation in safe compounds, and never try to resist any thief, mugger, or robber.

Furthermore, corruption, despite efforts of the government to tackle it, is still considered one of the country’s biggest issues, both by locals and expats moving to Brazil.

Main Cities

São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, is by far the most popular expat destination in the state. Apart from its sheer size – São Paulo’s metropolitan area is home to nearly 20 million people – it is also Brazil’s economic and financial center, housing the São Paulo Stock Exchange.

In 2011, it was estimated to have generated over 17% of the country’s GDP. Plenty of multinational headquarters are located there, and expatriates moving to Brazil will find that São Paulo has more to offer than any other place in the country.

Brazil’s most famous and notorious metropolis of Rio de Janeiro is lagging slightly behind São Paulo in terms of expat popularity. However, this is definitely not due to a lack of attractiveness – Rio holds the title for the most visited city in the Southern Hemisphere – but rather the lower number of employment opportunities for foreigners.

Most commonly, expats moving to Brazil to work in Rio are employed as specialists in Brazil’s petrochemical sector and other important industries, or they scrape a living by teaching English.

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  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t agree more. Even though I was born there, brazil is the shittiest country in the world. I would never consider going back to that shithole

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It seems the future never arrives in Brazil What Lies Ahead in Brazil? Brazil Has No Exemplary Past or Present. But What Lies Ahead for the Country? Europeans, US, developed country, developing country. Bolsonaro, future B. Michael Rubin For years, experts have debated what separates a developing country from a developed one. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country is one simple way to measure its economic development. Another way to measure a country's progress is the extent of public education, e.g. how many citizens complete high school. A country's health may be measured by the effectiveness of its healthcare system, for example, life expectancy and infant mortality. With these measurement tools, it's easier to gauge the difference between a country like Brazil and one like the U.S. What's not easy to gauge is how these two countries developed so differently when they were both "discovered" at the same time. In 1492 and 1500 respectively, the U.S. and Brazil fell under the spell of white Europeans for the first time. While the British and Portuguese had the same modus operandi, namely, to exploit their discoveries for whatever they had to offer, not to mention extinguishing the native Americans already living there if they got in the way, the end result turned out significantly different in the U.S. than in Brazil. There are several theories on how/why the U.S. developed at a faster pace than Brazil. The theories originate via contrasting perspectives – from psychology to economics to geography. One of the most popular theories suggests the divergence between the two countries is linked to politics, i.e. the U.S. established a democratic government in 1776, while Brazil's democracy it could be said began only in earnest in the 1980s. This theory states that the Portuguese monarchy, as well as the 19th and 20th century oligarchies that followed it, had no motivation to invest in industrial development or education of the masses. Rather, Brazil was prized for its cheap and plentiful labor to mine the rich soil of its vast land. There is another theory based on collective psychology that says the first U.S. colonizers from England were workaholic Puritans, who avoided dancing and music in place of work and religious devotion. They labored six days a week then spent all of Sunday in church. Meanwhile, the white settlers in Brazil were unambitious criminals who had been freed from prison in Portugal in exchange for settling in Brazil. The Marxist interpretation of why Brazil lags behind the U.S. was best summarized by Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer, in 1970. Galeano said five hundred years ago the U.S. had the good fortune of bad fortune. What he meant was the natural riches of Brazil – gold, silver, and diamonds – made it ripe for exploitation by western Europe. Whereas in the U.S., lacking such riches, the thirteen colonies were economically insignificant to the British. Instead, U.S. industrialization had official encouragement from England, resulting in early diversification of its exports and rapid development of manufacturing. II Leaving this debate to the historians, let us turn our focus to the future. According to global projections by several economic strategists, what lies ahead for Brazil, the U.S., and the rest of the world is startling. Projections forecast that based on GDP growth, in 2050 the world's largest economy will be China, not the U.S. In third place will be India, and in fourth – Brazil. With the ascendency of three-fourths of the BRIC countries over the next decades, it will be important to reevaluate the terms developed and developing. In thirty years, it may no longer be necessary to accept the label characterized by Nelson Rodrigues's famous phrase "complexo de vira-lata," for Brazil's national inferiority complex. For Brazilians, this future scenario presents glistening hope. A country with stronger economic power would mean the government has greater wealth to expend on infrastructure, crime control, education, healthcare, etc. What many Brazilians are not cognizant of are the pitfalls of economic prosperity. While Brazilians today may be envious of their wealthier northern neighbors, there are some aspects of a developed country's profile that are not worth envying. For example, the U.S. today far exceeds Brazil in the number of suicides, prescription drug overdoses, and mass shootings. GDP growth and economic projections depend on multiple variables, chief among them the global economic situation and worldwide political stability. A war in the Middle East, for example, can affect oil production and have global ramifications. Political stability within a country is also essential to its economic health. Elected presidents play a crucial role in a country's progress, especially as presidents may differ radically in their worldview. The political paths of the U.S. and Brazil are parallel today. In both countries, we've seen a left-wing regime (Obama/PT) followed by a far-right populist one (Trump/Bolsonaro), surprising many outside observers, and in the U.S. contradicting every political pollster, all of whom predicted a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Brazil, although Bolsonaro was elected by a clear majority, his triumph has created a powerful emotional polarization in the country similar to what is happening in the U.S. Families, friends, and colleagues have split in a love/hate relationship toward the current presidents in the U.S. and Brazil, leaving broken friendships and family ties. Both presidents face enormous challenges to keep their campaign promises. In Brazil, a sluggish economy just recovering from a recession shows no signs of robust GDP growth for at least the next two years. High unemployment continues to devastate the consumer confidence index in Brazil, and Bolsonaro is suffering under his campaign boasts that his Economy Minister, Paulo Guedes, has all the answers to fix Brazil's slump. Additionally, there is no end to the destruction caused by corruption in Brazil. Some experts believe corruption to be the main reason why Brazil has one of the world's largest wealth inequality gaps. Political corruption robs government coffers of desperately needed funds for education and infrastructure, in addition to creating an atmosphere that encourages everyday citizens to underreport income and engage in the shadow economy, thereby sidestepping tax collectors and regulators. "Why should I be honest about reporting my income when nobody else is? The politicians are only going to steal the tax money anyway," one Brazilian doctor told me. While Bolsonaro has promised a housecleaning of corrupt officials, this is a cry Brazilians have heard from every previous administration. In only the first half-year of his presidency, he has made several missteps, such as nominating one of his sons to be the new ambassador to the U.S., despite the congressman's lack of diplomatic credentials. A June poll found that 51 percent of Brazilians now lack confidence in Bolsonaro's leadership. Just this week, Brazil issued regulations that open a fast-track to deport foreigners who are dangerous or have violated the constitution. The rules published on July 26 by Justice Minister Sérgio Moro define a dangerous person as anyone associated with terrorism or organized crime, in addition to football fans with a violent history. Journalists noted that this new regulation had coincidental timing for an American journalist who has come under fire from Moro for publishing private communications of Moro's. Nevertheless, despite overselling his leadership skills, Bolsonaro has made some economic progress. With the help of congressional leader Rodrigo Maia, a bill is moving forward in congress for the restructuring of Brazil's generous pension system. Most Brazilians recognize the long-term value of such a change, which can save the government billions of dollars over the next decade. At merely the possibility of pension reform, outside investors have responded positively, and the São Paulo stock exchange has performed brilliantly, reaching an all-time high earlier this month. In efforts to boost the economy, Bolsonaro and Paulo Guedes have taken the short-term approach advocated by the Chicago school of economics championed by Milton Friedman, who claimed the key to boosting a slugging economy was to cut government spending. Unfortunately many economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, disagree with this approach. They believe the most effective way to revive a slow economy is exactly the opposite, to spend more money not less. They say the government should be investing money in education and infrastructure projects, which can help put people back to work. Bolsonaro/Guedes have also talked about reducing business bureaucracy and revising the absurdly complex Brazilian tax system, which inhibits foreign and domestic business investment. It remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro has the political acumen to tackle this Godzilla-sized issue. Should Bolsonaro find a way to reform the tax system, the pension system, and curb the most egregious villains of political bribery and kickbacks – a tall order – his efforts could indeed show strong economic results in time for the next election in 2022. Meanwhile, some prominent leaders have already lost faith in Bolsonaro's efforts. The veteran of political/economic affairs, Joaquim Levy, has parted company with the president after being appointed head of the government's powerful development bank, BNDES. Levy and Bolsonaro butted heads over an appointment Levy made of a former employee of Lula's. When neither man refused to back down, Levy resigned his position at BNDES. Many observers believe Bolsonaro's biggest misstep has been his short-term approach to fixing the economy by loosening the laws protecting the Amazon rainforest. He and Guedes believe that by opening up more of the Amazon to logging, mining, and farming, we will see immediate economic stimulation. On July 28, the lead article of The New York Times detailed the vastly increased deforestation in the Amazon taking place under Bolsonaro's leadership. Environmental experts argue that the economic benefits of increased logging and mining in the Amazon are microscopic compared to the long-term damage to the environment. After pressure from European leaders at the recent G-20 meeting to do more to protect the world's largest rainforest, Bolsonaro echoed a patriotic response demanding that no one has the right to an opinion about the Amazon except Brazilians. In retaliation to worldwide criticism, Bolsonaro threatened to follow Trump's example and pull out of the Paris climate accord; however, Bolsonaro was persuaded by cooler heads to retract his threat. To prove who was in control of Brazil's Amazon region, he appointed a federal police officer with strong ties to agribusiness as head of FUNAI, the country's indigenous agency. In a further insult to the world's environmental leaders, not to mention common sense, Paulo Guedes held a news conference on July 25 in Manaus, the largest city in the rainforest, where he declared that since the Amazon forest is known for being the "lungs" of the world, Brazil should charge other countries for all the oxygen the forest produces. Bolsonaro/Guedes also have promised to finish paving BR-319, a controversial highway that cuts through the Amazon forest, linking Manaus to the state of Rondônia and the rest of the country. Inaugurated in 1976, BR-319 was abandoned by federal governments in the 1980s and again in the 1990s as far too costly and risky. Environmentalists believe the highway's completion will seal a death knoll on many indigenous populations by vastly facilitating the growth of the logging and mining industries. Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded a Wajãpi village recently in the state of Amapá near the border of French Guiana and fatally stabbed one of the community's leaders. While Brazil's environmental protection policies are desperately lacking these days, not all the news here was bad. On the opening day of the 2019 Pan America Games in Lima, Peru, Brazilian Luisa Baptista, swam, biked, and ran her way to the gold medal in the women's triathlon. The silver medal went to Vittoria Lopes, another Brazilian. B. Michael Rubin is an American writer living in Brazil.

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