Poverty reaches a document of virtually 20 million in Brazilian metropolises
Number of 19.8 million in 2021 is the highest in a decade; researchers see stimulus and difficulties in 2022
With the cut in emergency aid, the spike in inflation and the insufficient resumption of the job market, the number of people in poverty jumped to 19.8 million in Brazilian metropolises in 2021.
It is the highest level of a ten-year historical series, which began in 2012, points out the 9th Bulletin Inequality in the Metropolis. The study analyzes statistics from the country’s 22 major metropolitan areas.
Upon reaching 19.8 million, the number of poor people came to represent 23.7% –almost a quarter– of the total population of these regions.
The percentage is also, by far, the highest in the historical series. Until then, the percentage had never reached 20%.
The group in poverty increased by 3.8 million people compared to 2020, when it was about 16 million.
The advance is equivalent to practically double the total population estimated for a city like Curitiba – almost 2 million inhabitants.
The newsletter is produced in a partnership between PUCRS (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul), Observatory of Metropolis and RedODSAL (Network of Social Debt Observatories in Latin America).
The new edition uses data from Pnad Contínua with an annual cut. This version of the Pnad, released by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), goes beyond the job market and also includes other sources of income, including social programs.
For those responsible for the bulletin, Brazil has already signaled difficulties in combating poverty since the transition from 2014 to 2015. From the arrival of the pandemic, in 2020, the problem worsened.
“The crisis was already brewing. We were on a really bad tide. On top of that, the pandemic came”, says André Salata, professor of the postgraduate program in Social Sciences at PUCRS and one of the coordinators of the newsletter.
The jump in poverty in 2021, the researchers say, can be linked to at least three factors: incomplete recovery of the labor market, soaring inflation and the abrupt withdrawal of emergency aid at the beginning of last year. The benefit was even resumed in the sequence, but with reduced public and values.
“That [mudanças no auxílio] made the poverty indicators jump”, says Salata.
“In 2021, we still had the inflationary effect”, recalls Marcelo Ribeiro, a researcher at the Observatório das Metrópoles and a professor at IPPUR (Institute for Research and Urban and Regional Planning at UFRJ), who is also the coordinator of the study.
“People went back to work, stimulated by the advance of vaccination. But this resumption was not enough to recover the income from the period before the pandemic. All this contributed to the losses, especially among the poorest”, adds Ribeiro.
The bulletin uses World Bank criteria to define the parameters of poverty and extreme poverty.
In average values for 2021, converted into reais, the poverty line was approximately R$465 per capita (per person) per month, while the extreme poverty line was around R$160 per capita per month.
In practice, residents of households whose income per person was below these levels were classified by the study as poor or extremely poor.
The bulletin shows that the second group also set a record in 2021. The contingent of people in extreme poverty reached 5.3 million in metropolitan regions last year. The brand represents 6.3% of the population.
There was an increase of 1.6 million people in extreme poverty compared to 2020, when the contingent was 3.7 million. The annual increase exceeds the population of a capital like Porto Alegre (1.5 million).
The metropolitan regions with the highest poverty rates in 2021 were Manaus (41.8%) and Grande São Luís (40.1%), the only two above 40%. The places with the lowest results were Florianópolis (9.9%) and Porto Alegre (11.4%).
In the case of extreme poverty, Recife (13%) and Salvador (12.2%) recorded the highest percentages. Florianópolis (1.3%) and Cuiabá (2.4%) appeared at the other end, with the lowest rates.
Those responsible for the study also draw attention to the case of São Paulo, as it is the largest metropolis in the country.
From 2014 to 2021, a period of economic turmoil, the local number of poor people almost doubled, from about 2 million to 3.9 million. The poverty rate in the metropolitan region jumped from 9.5% to 17.8% in the same interval.
The group in extreme poverty in São Paulo jumped from 381.4 thousand in 2014 to 1.03 million in 2021. The rate increased from 1.8% to 4.7% of the total population.
“The number of people in extreme poverty in São Paulo is frightening. It reached over 1 million. In 2014, it was less than 400,000. Sure, the population is increasing, but it’s a very big leap. It exemplifies the social crisis”, says Salata.
“In Rio de Janeiro, the number of people in extreme poverty is also almost 1 million [subiu de 336,1 mil em 2014 para 926,8 mil em 2021]. It’s as if we had an extremely poor metropolis inside São Paulo or Rio”, compares Ribeiro.
Geysa de Oliveira Glória, 31, felt the impact of the crisis. The resident of Heliópolis, on the outskirts of São Paulo, has been without a formal job since 2020, when she lost a spot in a school kitchen.
“It is very complicated due to the lack of work, and everything is expensive”, laments Geysa, who lives with her husband, son and mother-in-law.
According to her, the support of the home in recent months came from her partner’s unemployment insurance, sporadic odd jobs and donations. Geysa wants to invest in the production and sale of cakes and sweets, an activity in which she already has experience.
“My wish is to have my market to work. I like what I do, my sweets and cakes,” she says. “I’ve managed to help many people, today I can’t. It hurts,” she adds.
For 2022, the researchers see both factors that can raise the income of the most vulnerable and issues that hinder a more consistent recovery.
On the one hand, they say, the return to the job market and the increase in Auxílio Brasil on the eve of the elections tend to generate a recomposition of income.
“The Auxílio Brasil of R$600 will undoubtedly have an impact on the income of the poorest. But it is good to remember that an income transfer policy, to be well done, needs to be sustainable and well focused. There are many criticisms in relation to the focus of aid”, ponders Salata.
Part of the benefit is eroded by inflation. This means that the face value will not buy the same as in 2020, when emergency aid also paid R$ 600.
“We can see a recovery that is still insufficient to reach pre-pandemic levels. The poorest population will go through a very complicated situation in terms of income, of purchasing power, until the end of the year”, points out Ribeiro.