Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


brazil-protest

Are the Protests in Brazil Due to Falling Inequality Levels?

• June 27, 2013 • 10:16 AM

(PHOTO: SEMILIA_LUZ/FLICKR)

The Brazilian middle class is bigger than ever, and that’s why they’re so fed up.

This past Monday, in an attempt to calm the nation’s growing discontent, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff proposed a vote to amend the country’s constitution. “The streets are telling us that the country wants quality public services, more effective measures to combat corruption … and responsive political representation,” she stated. The nation nodded, took note, and called malarkey. Five hundred people protested Tuesday on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, and “tens of thousands” marched on Wednesday. As Brazil’s snowballing protests hinge on a widening disillusionment with government, the president’s call for reform has done little to pacify a distrustful populace.

As Brazil’s economic prospects improve, the expectations for better public services grow.

What was sparked by a 20-cent bus fare increase has now grown into a thousand-plus movement backboned by Brazil’s rising middle class. The Brazilian government states that, over the past decade, 31 million people have entered the middle class, bringing the total number of middle-class citizens to 95 million, or 52 percent of the total population. This increase is part of an overall Latin American trend; a recent World Bank report states that in 2011, for the first time, more Latin Americans were living as part of the middle class than living in poverty. But a growing middle class demands an adjustment in policy. In her report for the Council on Foreign Relations, Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman argues, “The trajectory of emerging democracies depends fundamentally on whether political democratization can also deliver shared opportunity and inclusive growth to materially improve people’s lives.”

To sum up, as Brazil’s economic prospects improve, the expectations for better public services grow. A mishandling of money is a major concern across the board. While the Brazilian government proposes to raise education spending to seven percent of their GDP, the gap in math skills between an average student in Shanghai and the average Brazilian student is still five school years—due to a “serious degree of corruption and mismanagement of education funds,” according to the World Bank. Spending on Brazil’s Unified Health System (SUS) accounts for just 3.1 percent of GDP, and although health care is a constitutional right, SUS’s family doctors can only reach one out of two Brazilians. Meanwhile, the Olympics and the World Cup will cost Brazil an estimated $31.3 billion in public expenditures, equivalent to around 1.26 percent of GDP. In comparison, the poverty alleviation program Bolsa Familia accounts for just 0.5 percent of Brazil’s GDP and covers more than 12 million families.

Inequality may be falling in Brazil, but unrest is rising. With more and more Brazilians desiring and requiring the services the country doesn’t provide despite one of the highest tax rates in the world at 36 percent, don’t expect it to end any time soon.

Sarah Sloat
Sarah Sloat is an editorial fellow with Pacific Standard. She was previously selected as an intern for the Sara Miller McCune Endowed Internship and Public Service Program and has studied abroad in both Argentina and the U.K. Sarah has recently graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara with a degree in Global and International Studies. Follow her on Twitter @sarahshmee.

More From Sarah Sloat

Tags: , , , , , ,

If you would like to comment on this post, or anything else on Pacific Standard, visit our Facebook or Google+ page, or send us a message on Twitter. You can also follow our regular updates and other stories on both LinkedIn and Tumblr.

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Follow us


Subscribe Now

Quick Studies

What Makes You Neurotic?

A new study gets to the root of our anxieties.

Fecal Donor Banks Are Possible and Could Save Lives

Defrosted fecal matter can be gross to talk about, but the benefits are too remarkable to tiptoe around.

How Junk Food Companies Manipulate Your Tongue

We mistakenly think that harder foods contain fewer calories, and those mistakes can affect our belt sizes.

What Steve Jobs’ Death Teaches Us About Public Health

Studies have shown that when public figures die from disease, the public takes notice. New research suggests this could be the key to reaching those who are most at risk.

Speed-Reading Apps Will Not Revolutionize Anything, Except Your Understanding

The one-word-at-a-time presentation eliminates the eye movements that help you comprehend what you're reading.

The Big One

One state—Pennsylvania—logs 52 percent of all sales, shipments, and receipts for the chocolate manufacturing industry. March/April 2014