Sunday, January 03, 2010

Social Mobility in Brazil Gradually Improving

A new study out of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas is reporting that, since 2003, "more than 20 million of 198 million people in Brazil have risen above poverty, and 32 million have entered the middle class." Brazil's growth hasn't stopped there, either, as foreign investment in Brazil in 2008 was at $45 billion, triple what it was in 1998, and Brazil's economy is bigger than Russia's or India's.

Brazil's growth, especially in terms of the economy, hasn't been a big secret over the last five years or so, and anybody doubting the strength of that growth became very quiet as Brazil was one of the fastest countries to emerge from recession brought on by the global financial collapse of 2008 (exiting its recession just one quarter after entering it).

Oftentimes, when one sees economic growth, it doesn't necessarily have much to do with the leadership of the country at that moment. However, as I've pointed out before, Lula certainly has every right to take much of the credit for this (though he doesn't). His willingness to expand his trading partners beyond the U.S. and Europe has helped Brazil diversify its importation and exportation and strengthened the value of the Brazilian Real in the international market, which, as I pointed out, has helped the consuming power of the working classes, and this expanding access to consumption has in turn only further strengthened Brazil's economy. Additionally, programs like offering federally-funded "internships" that help college graduates to get established in the job market has also been another direct program of Lula's that has aided the workforce and students finishing school (a number that, while still relatively small compared to the U.S., is constantly growing in Brazil).

And these reports of growth, especially in terms of the social mobility of those 20 million exiting poverty, is much better news than the report from last June, which focused only on middle class growth and which, as Randy and I both pointed out, said nothing about the very real problems facing Brazil's poor. Certainly, this latest report still does nothing to address the poverty that many face, nor the police violence (and impunity) waged against the urban poor, nor the broader social and racial prejudices against Brazil's poor. Still, the fact that 20 million have exited poverty is just another testament to the success of government programs like Bolsa Familia and Fome Zero, and Lula's institution of these programs (in the face of strong conservative opposition) has been nothing short of vital in helping this broader social turnaround.