Bolsa Família

Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO — The remaining two candidates in the Brazilian presidential race met with campaign teams on Monday to plan negotiations to secure rivals’ supports and redraw political battle lines ahead of the runoff on 26 October.

Sunday’s first-round vote saw incumbent and leftist Workers’ Party candidate President Dilma Rousseff take 41.5 percent of valid votes, but center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party candidate and market favorite Aécio Neves performed unexpectedly well, finishing in second with 33.6 percent, forcing a fourth consecutive runoff between the two parties.

Former environment minister Marina Silva, running for the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), placed third with 21 percent of support, meaning elimination from the race.

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Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO — Brazil saw increases in unemployment and inequality in 2013, according to new official figures released Thursday by the country’s office of national statistics, the IBGE.

Brazil’s Gini Index, a measure of inequality by income distribution, rose from 0.496 in 2012 to 0.498 in 2013, where ‘zero’ represents perfect equality. The increase breaks a years-long downward trend in inequality experienced since 2001, when it was 0.563.

[Important update 19 Sept: The IBGE later announced it had made “serious errors” in some of its calculations, the most noteworthy of which being the Gini Index, which in fact fell to 0.495 in 2013. The IBGE said this still constituted a “stagnation”. The government has called for an inquiry into the errors.]

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Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO — Brazil now boasts the most multi-millionaires in Latin America and is ranked tenth in the world, according to a study reported by local media.

The study by Johannesburg-based wealth consultancy New World Wealth also showed that São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city and business center, is the world’s 17th for multi-millionaires, defined in the report as having more than $10 million in net assets.

Currently the world’s seventh largest economy, Brazil has 10,300 multi-millionaires, of which 4,400 are concentrated in São Paulo and a further 2,200 in Rio de Janeiro, putting the “Marvellous City” in 27th position globally.

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Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been accused by rival presidential hopefuls of using a May Day speech broadcast on national television and radio for her own gains ahead of this year’s elections.

Rival presidential pre-candidates senator Aécio Neves, of the main opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), and former governor Eduardo Campos of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), launched a scathing attack on Thursday over the president’s national address, which they criticised as being directed towards general elections set for 5 October.

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Brazil – the biggest country and economy in Latin America – has achieved an 89% reduction in the number of its citizen living in extreme poverty in the last 10 years, the country’s minister for social development and hunger alleviation (MDS) said on Monday.

Minister Tereza Campello praised efforts by the Brazilian government over the last decade, during which time Brazil has implemented the world’s largest family income support program, the Bolsa Família, which gives around 50 million people, or one-in-four of the country’s population, a monthly slice of government money.

Bolsa Família at 10 with Development Minister Tereza Campello. Photo by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / Agência Brasil.

Development Minister Tereza Campello celebrated 10 years of the Bolsa Família. Photo by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil.

The official figures were announced at the start of the week-long South-South Learning Forum 2014, which began on Monday with representatives from 50 countries in Rio de Janeiro. Sponsored by the World Bank, the forum will discuss different social protection policies from around the world.

Brazil is planning to launch a new anti-poverty information platform at the end of the forum called World Without Poverty (WWP), an online tool that the South American country is helping to develop that will allow for information exchanges with other nations. Campello said the tool would cut costs and speed the dissemination of information.

Brazil has been globally praised for its fight against poverty, which has seen 35 million people rise into the burgeoning lower-middle class, eager to spend their new-found cash on TVs, smartphones, cars and white goods.

However, the government has recently come under local attack for its handling of rural and indigenous communities, where malnutrition remains rife. Some have criticized the Bolsa Família as a quick fix to far deeper socio-economic problems.

Still other critics go further and say it’s a way for the ruling Workers Party (PT), fronted by both President Dilma Rousseff and her charismatic predecessor President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to gain support at the polls. Although the amount is very small, it is of symbolic importance to many.

“The population looks at PT and says ‘They’re bad but they give us the Bolsa Família’,” said Ricardo Antunes, professor of sociology at São Paulo’s Unicamp university. Whereas the opposition PSDB party looks “insensitive” and would put an end to it.

Bolsa Família

Although some recipients have complained that the Bolsa Família is not enough, mother-of-two Aline Ferreira, 24, from Recife in Brazil’s poorer northeast region says the welfare “top-up” has allowed her both to work and study, as well as feed her children:

Bolsa Família

Receiving the Bolsa Família in Brazil is contingent on your children going to school and getting vaccinated.

“I get about 100 reais a month and it helps quite a lot,” Ferreira said. “Before, we just ate beans and rice but now my children are eating meat and vegetables throughout the month.”

Natal airport cleaning assistant Elaine Galdino, 27, who also has two children, is similarly positive about the scheme: “It’s not much, but I work as well, and it allows me to buy things that I couldn’t afford otherwise.”

Defending the Bolsa Família program, which will take R$24 billion (US$10.2 billion) from public coffers in 2014, Campello said at the start of the forum that the program was not just a handout, but a complementary part of the country’s social protection network along with “other aid” to help families live “in dignity.”

The Bolsa Família benefit payments are contingent on all family members under 16 going to school and receiving basic vaccinations. Once they meet these requirements, families below the poverty line earn R$32-38 (around US$14-16) per month per child, and those below the extreme poverty line get R$70 (around US$30).

Funds are normally received through a type of bank card mailed to the female head of the household. Some 13 million families have registered for the scheme.

“Poverty is not something natural,” the minister said, arguing that the government had to intervene. She added that 70% of recipients work. A direct response to repeated criticism that the program dissuaded those receiving the benefit from taking up gainful employment, which she blasted as a “myth against the poor population.”

A poll in 2013 said half of Brazilians did not believe the policy was effective at bringing people out of poverty, blaming a want of effort rather than a lack of opportunities.

But Campello said that for every $1 invested into the program, $1.78 was returned to the economy as Brazilians who previously had access to the benefit become better-off and contribute themselves.

In a recent interview with Portuguese newspaper Público, Ms Campello described it as “giving the fish, teaching [them] how to fish, and giving whatever we have to give to change Brazil.”

Written for Anadolu Agency

Brazil will not achieve targets set for the eradication of the “worst forms” of child labour in the country by 2015, according to a range of experts, including government figures responsible for its reduction.

Brazil's Northeast region has worked hard to combat child labour. Photo by Leonardo Sakamoto.

Brazil’s Northeast region has worked hard to combat child labour. Photo by Leonardo Sakamoto.

The project, titled the National Plan for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labour and Protection of Working Teens, also sets out to eradicate child labour altogether by 2020.

Child labour has fallen from 19.6% of five- to 17-year-olds in 1992 to 8.3% in 2011, O Globo newspaper reports. However, despite undeniable progress being made over the past twenty years, Brazil still has around 3.7 million working minors, according to the 2011 National Survey of Households (PNAD) conducted by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics).

More worryingly, some believe as many as 1.97 million children continue to work in “dangerous or insalubrious activities,” from agriculture and domestic activities to working in the sex trade. The government’s estimate is more conservative, at 1.5 million.

Data from the 2000 and 2010 Censuses shows that all states in Brazil’s Northeast region – an area historically associated with child labour – saw a reduction in child labour in ten- to 17-year-olds, with the biggest decrease in Piauí state where child labour was reduced by 30%, meaning 36,000 fewer children in work.

But while some states continue to make strides against the practice, the reduction in the number of children working in other states has gone into reverse, particularly in Brazil’s North and Centre-West regions: Amapá state recorded an increase of 67%.

Some officials say that the true number of children working is difficult to calculate but that the government is making real progress and can achieve the targets; they cite social help centres, better schools and programs such as Brasil Carinhoso, which provides extra care for children living below the poverty threshold, as having been proved effective against child labour.

But Minister Lélio Bentes, from the Superior Labour Court and Commission for the Eradication of Child Labour, says that while the number of minors working in Brazil and Latin America has roughly halved since 1992, Brazil will fail to reach the targets set for the eradication of child labour.

“New strategies are needed. The Bolsa Família (family benefit) has been an effective tool but, alone, it is not working,” Bentes told O Globo newspaper, arguing that informal work activities on family farms and domestic labour are part of the reason the problem persists.

Brazilian NGO Repórter Brasil says data from the 2010 Census shows that there were 1.5% more children from the most vulnerable group – those aged ten to thirteen years old.

Experts say that all too often children are not allowed to complete their basic cycle of education, with parents justifying their actions by saying that children need to start work early to get on in life. It is estimated that over five million children in Brazil of compulsory schooling age fail to attend classes.

Charities say children are also often sent to landfill sites to pick through the refuse to salvage items that can be fixed and sold, as well as being exploited by drug traffickers and in the sex trade.

Jonathan Hannay, Secretary General of ACER Brasil – an NGO working with 5,000 children in Diadema, São Paulo state – says that the reality for most minors involved in child labour, those in urban areas, is extremely lowly-paid piece work – such as gluing novelty shopping bags at a rate of R$7 (US$3.26) per thousand – and being forced to clean the house and look after siblings.

Read the full published article on The Rio Times website