Brazil decades behind other countries in fighting inequality

Publicado: 24th Septiembre 2017

A Brazilian earning the minimum wage would have to work for 19 years to earn as much as what a rich person in the country's top 0.1 percent makes in one month, Oxfam revealed today.

New research by the international agency shows that at the current pace, it would take Brazil 75 years to reach the United Kingdom’s current level of income equality, or 30 to Argentina’s.

Despite lifting millions of people out of poverty over the last decades, Brazil still faces a huge gap between the country’s richest and the rest of the population. Previously, Oxfam had revealed that just six people own as much money as the poorest half of the country.

“This is an unjust, unacceptable, and unsustainable situation,” said Oxfam Brazil’s executive director, Katia Maia. “We cannot dance around this anymore; tackling inequality head-on is everyone’s responsibility. This report is our way of kick-starting this conversation.”

Experts have little doubt about what’s behind Brazil’s economic inequality. The country's regressive tax system weighs heavily on the poorest and on the middle class; racial and gender discrimination erodes the rights of women and black Brazilians; a political system that concentrates power and is highly prone to corruption.

Worse still, inequality threatens to reverse the progress the country has made in ending poverty. Current World Bank projections show up to 3.6 million people are expected to fall back into poverty this year in Brazil. About 16 million Brazilians already live below the poverty line.

“We know what works to end inequality,” said Maia. “Expanding the social safety net to cover the poorest investing in education, raising the minimum wage, and bringing ‘informal’ work out of the shadows all helps to narrow the gap.”

The report also highlights the following figures:

  • At the current rate, the income gap between women and men will only be evened out by 2047.
  • Likewise, it’ll take until 2089 for black Brazilians to be paid the same as white Brazilians.
  • If the six richest Brazilians spent 1 million Brazilian reals ($319,188) a day, it would take them 36 years to spend all their wealth.
  • The Brazilian government could raise 60 billion Brazilian reals ($19.1 billion) per year-- twice as much as the budget of the Bolsa Familia social program, and almost three times the education budget— by ending tax breaks for the super-rich.

 “Extreme inequality breeds conflict, violence, and instability,” said Maia. “All Brazilians, regardless of social class or race, are affected by the inequality crisis. This is what unites us.” 

Notas para editores

The report is available in Portuguese.

A fact sheet of the report’s findings is available in English here. The full report will be released in English in the coming days.

The Brazilian real to USD conversions were made using September 22, 2017 exchange rates.

Información de contacto

Simon Hernandez-Arthur in Washington, +1 (585) 503 4568, @SimonHernandez

For updates, please follow @Oxfam.

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