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The escalation of extreme poverty

The number of people in Brazil living below the extreme poverty line has broken records and is already equivalent to the total populations of countries such as Greece and Portugal.

Extreme poverty reigns champion – the base of the social pyramid hasn’t stopped growing.  In 2018, Brazil broke the record for the number of people living below the extreme poverty line, according to data from the Summary of Social Indicators (Síntese de Indicadores Sociais: SIS), published in November by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística: IBGE).  Now, 13.5 million Brazilians have a monthly per capita income below BRL 145.00 (U$ 36.00/month) or a little over BRL 4.00 per day (U$ 1.00/day), which is the criteria adopted by the World Bank to define the extreme poverty line.  The number is equivalent to 6.5% of Brazilians and corresponds to the total population of countries such as Bolivia, Belgium, Cuba, Greece and Portugal.

This mass of the underprivileged eat what they can, live precariously and do not have prospects to improve their lives. Many of these Brazilians, although they receive the Family Grant, with its cut off of BRL 89.00, remain within the zone of absolute poverty.  The Family Grant protection network has become less efficient.  Among Brazil’s regions, the Northeast registered the most people, 7.7 million, below the extreme poverty line.  The Central-West has the least extreme poverty, with 467 thousand people.  The research also includes data about the number of Brazilians below the poverty line, one degree above extreme poverty.  They live on a monthly income below BRL 420.00 (U$105.00), in other words, less than half a minimum wage at the time the study was conducted, which was BRL 954.00 (U$ 238.00).  In 2018, 52.5 million Brazilians were classified in this deplorable condition, equivalent to approximately 25% of the population: one in four Brazilians is poor.

The study is broken down by gender and race.  In 2018, poverty principally affected the female black or mixed-race population. Approximately 27.2 million black women remain below the poverty line, a little over half the total.  In the classification by race, black or mixed-race people had an average per capita household income of BRL 934.00, almost 50% less than the white population – BRL 1,846.00.  The study demonstrated that 56.2% (29.5 million people below the poverty line) do not have access to sanitation systems; 25.8% (13.5 million) do not have access to the water supply network; and 21.1% (11.1 million) do not know of access to waste collection services.  Furthermore, in the data related to housing, the indices of precariousness are higher for mixed-race and black people than for whites, even those who have incomplete primary or no education.  Over four years of worsening social indicators, more than 4.5 million Brazilians have fallen into absolute poverty.  Despite this, President Jair Bolsonaro swears on his honour that nobody in Brazil goes hungry.

Photo: Leonardo Lucena