Ecumenical Movement Counteracts the government’s proposal for reform of the social security system

The Articulation for Human Rights Monitoring in Brazil has carefully analyzed the suggested Social Security Reform proposal recently submitted by the Federal Government to Congress. Seeking a close eye especially on those who will eventually be most affected – the entire working class – the Articulation issued a Positioning Note opposing some of the main arguments of the Reform proposal.




The Bolsonaro government has sent a proposal for the social security reform to the National Congress in the second month of its government, as promised. Many analyzes and a dispute to legitimize the proposal are under way. Some of the central arguments put forward by the government and by analysts and economists allied with market interests are that Brazil needs to do the pension reform in order to (1) contribute to fiscal adjustment and control of public accounts, without which economic growth in the country is not resumed; (2) to do social justice, correcting existing distortions in the social security system; and (3) guaranteeing social welfare security for future generations.


(1) The fiscal adjustment argument and the resumption of economic growth, among other issues, highlight the so-called social security budget deficit. For economists committed to the market lords this is the great clutch of the advancement of the economy in the country. The economist and professor of UFRJ, Denise Lobato Gentil, asserts that this argument cannot be sustained when confronted with the Federal Constitution of 1988. For her “the government makes a calculation without considering what the Federal Constitution foresees in articles 194 and 195. In these two articles it is verified that the resources that belong to the social security, which will finance the expenses with health, social assistance and social security, come from several sources of revenue “. According to her, “those who defend social security, however, know that all this rhetoric is forged to privatize the provision of public services.” This “pushes the population to make pension plans in private capitalization funds and moves these people from a service that should be public to the financial system. This is a process of financialization of the public budget. Reducing benefits means pushing people into private pension plans. ” [1] As stated by the economist, according to the National Association of Tax Auditors of the Brazilian Federal Revenue Service (Anfip), “based on constitutional precepts, there is no pension deficit”. The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) held by the Federal Senate and completed at the end of 2017, in its final report, [2] unanimously approved, noted that “simply speak of Welfare Deficit, from the behavior of current revenues and expenses of social security as a whole, is to mitigate reality “(2017, 34). On the other hand, it is important to emphasize that the growth of the economy is the result of several factors and to link the economic crisis to the social security system is to play with the interest of the markets on the rights of the workers.


(2) The argument that the reform proposal put forward by the government will definitely promote social justice is no more than a rhetorical trap or mere fiction. Because, to level those already historically disadvantaged and deprived of constitutional rights, of access to basic public services with those who have always enjoyed benefits or privileges in the social security system have no sense of social justice. That is, contrary to this discourse, in a quick look at the proposal presented by the government, it is possible to detect that it is very hard and unfair to the poorest, mainly because of the decrease of the gains, the increase of the age and the time of contribution and changes in the Continuous Provision Benefit (BPC), for example. The prediction that the population that is entitled to BPC will only receive the full minimum wage after the age of 70 means, for the economist and professor of Unicamp, Eduardo Fagnani, that “this population will have a very short survival, since it is difficult to them to reach 70 years of age “[3]. The social security proposal also negatively affects women, raising and equating the age and the time of contribution with the men, in an adverse universe of the labor world, where the women besides exercising the maternity, in the vast majority of cases, they have double working hours and with lower earnings than men. The working class, which on average lives on a minimum wage or a little more, and which, in general, occupies worst jobs for your health, will have the minimum retirement age at 65 for men and 62 for women, besides the requirement of 40 years of contribution for the receipt of full value, generating a very high potential of gain lower than the minimum wage when retiring. Against these injustices and the sacrifice of the poorest and most fragile in the system the government continues to make the option of not discussing public expenditures with respect to the costs of paying interest on public debt and with fiscal and tax exemptions of the richest, in addition to default and uncollected debts, which transfer large amounts of money or they fail to collect on profits and dividends, thus sustaining the advance of concentration of income and social inequality in the country.


(3) As regards to the third argument, defending social security for future generations does not mean penalizing who has recently entered or is now entering the labor market. There are analyzes that say that the proposed pension reform put forward by the government  will encourage the hiring of retirees, since it proposes to waive the FGTS and the termination penalty. Therefore, in addition to promoting the loss of rights for older workers and / or retirees, it stimulates the market not to hire younger workers and professionals. Is this defending future generations? Furthermore, by keeping older workers active longer, it encourages young people, especially the less skilled, to work with fewer rights, adhering to the already announced “green and yellow work license”, which will further relax labor rights. [4] On the other hand, making pension reform back against the reality of the labor world and of the worker in Brazil, is a mistake. In Brazil, more or less 50% of the work is done on informality, without contribution to social security. In this perspective, according to Eduardo Fagnani, “with these proposed rules, which are very hard, some 20% will not be able to contribute and will be released to the assistance earning 400 or 500 reais.” So, instead of protecting future generations, what we will have 20 or 30 years from now, in Fagnani’s words, is “an indigent country” or “capitalism without consumer”.


Finally, centrally the main setback in the government’s proposal is that it destroys one of the most well-constructed and broad-ranging concepts in the guarantee of social rights formulated in the Federal Constitution of 1988, the social security. In the current provision, it articulates pensions, health and social assistance. The government reform proposal inaugurates a new form of non-social security, but social insurance, from a perspective of capitalization rather than rights. This proposal deeply attacks the poorest since it joins the already approved labor reform that relaxes and worsens in a profound way the labor relations. In promoting this profound change, the country no longer offers the guarantee of realization of the rights provided for in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (articles 9 and 11, in particular), promoting an immeasurable retrocession and violating this international treaty ratified by Brazil (Articles 2 (1) and 5 (1) and (2)) and also Article 29 of the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José de Costa Rica), to which Brazil has acceded in 1992.


Making corrections to the social security system is something that all serious countries do, but it is not fair to do this at the expense of the destruction of the social protection system and that the most disadvantaged are the citizens and workers who have historically already paid this account in the country.


Brasília, March 11, 2019

Articulation for Human Rights Monitoring in Brazil


Signed by:

State Articulation MNDH RS

Cristalândia Human Rights Center – Dom Heriberto Hermes

Human Rights Center of Sapopemba – CDHS

Gaspar Garcia Center for Human Rights

Youth Collective of Minas Gerais

Human Rights Commission of Passo Fundo – CDHPF

Pastoral Commission of Land

National Council of Laity of Brazil – CNLB

FIAN Brasil

Human and Earth Rights Forum

Ecumenical Forum ACT Brazil

Research Group in Environmental Education, Communication and Art – GPEA-UFMT

Caracol Institute – ICA

Institute for Economic, Social, Cultural , Environmental  and Human Rights – IDHESCA

Koinonia Ecumenical Presence and Service

Movement of the Affected by Dams – MAB

National Human Rights Movement – MNDH


Environmental Education Observatory – OBSERVARE

Partners of Misereor in Brazil

Process of International Articulation and Dialogue – PAD

International Network of Researchers in Environmental Education and Climate Justice –


Mato Grosso Network of Environmental Education – REMTEA

Maranhense Society for Human Rights