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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