Social exclusion increased 11% in Brazil between 1980 and
2000. In these two decades, the number of marginalized persons
rose from 51 million (42.6% out of 120 million persons) to
80 million (47.3% out of 170 million). The increase in unemployment
and violence are the principle factors that contributed to
the increase in social exclusion in Brazil. Within the data
researched, education was the only area that improved.
Process of marginalization in Brazil
Ever since the arrival of the Portuguese to Brazil, more
than five centuries ago, social exclusion has been a principle
national hallmark. The breadth and complexity of marginalization
are summed up by three major historical factors: 1) the brutal
genocide of indigenous persons, 2) the barbarous enslavement
of Africans and 3) and the maladies imposed by paternalistic
colonialism and European immigration.
the economic and political evolution of the country was based
continuously on the condition of subjugation of the leading
classes to international interests, generally shaping domestic
production to external forces. It was not by chance that the
Brazilian social structure ended up being closed to the upward
mobility of the lower classes, who in most cases were abandoned
to the open game of the Darwinism of the market.
the Revolution of 1930 to the national re-democratization,
still in the beginning of the decade of 1980, Brazil saw the
growth of its productive forces founded in the cycle of national
industrialization. From a backward and anti-social agricultural
export economy, the country transformed itself into an urban
one and today is one of the eighth largest industrial producers
in the world. Social gains did appear, but they were not enough
to stem the historical process of marginalization.
protections and benefits appeared in the workplace, something
unknown until then. These included, for example, minimum contract
salaries with workers, as well as hourly limits to the work-day,
with weekly and annual days of vacation from the job.
the first time it was possible for the segments of the subordinate
class to live without working, availing themselves of entering
into the social security system. All of this resulted from
long struggles. For example, social security began in 1923,
benefiting only the São Paulo railroad workers. It
then came to incorporate other urban professional categories
since the 1930s. 1963 marked the rural worker statute that
gave limited access to the rural population, and then there
was FUNRURAL, which was passed five years later. And it was
only in the 1988 Federal Constitution that standard private
sector benefits were secured for both urban and rural workers.
In other words, seven decades have passed since the first
attempts at social security.
process of confronting the process of social marginalization
with the adoption of widespread measures in Brazil has been
backward and incredibly slow. Most of the time, social causes
are subordinated to economic ones as people seek to guarantee
the improvement of the conditions of production and reproduction
of wealth, regardless of whether that ends up harming society
as a whole.
seems to be the most recent pattern of decisions at the national
level, especially since the beginning of the 1980s when Brazil
stopped pursuing a nationalist project. There were various
factors that brought this about, above all those that resulted
in neoliberal policies adopted since 1990. Those policies
were responsible for a new mechanism of marginalization sustained
by the degradation of inequality, unemployment and violence.
the normality of the manifestation of social exclusion, we
seek to analyze briefly under what conditions and how the
country has behaved in relation to the evolution of social
exclusion over the last 40 years. It is this country, in sum,
that requires a new type of intervention so that the march
toward the XXI century is not a repeat - kept in the proper
proportion - of the past, characterized by its backwardness
and lack of reforms to confront the evolution of social Darwinism
imposed over the nation by determinism of "the economic".
The four decades that spanned the period from 1960 to 2000
registered contradictory combinations. On one hand, this period
showed a rapid economic growth during the authoritarian political
regime (1964-80); on the other hand, the poor performance
of the economy during the democratic regime (1985-2000).
spite of the significant economic advance, with average gross
domestic product rates averaging almost 7.5%, we note that
during the period from 1960 to 1980 the entire population
ended up not having satisfactory access to the results of
the material progress of Brazilian capitalism. In this manner,
the urban population in general became poorer, in sharp contrast
to earlier times when poverty was concentrated mainly in rural
advance of the urbanization of poverty elapsed accompanied
by a strong rural exodus, capable of generating an enormous
surplus of unskilled, underqualified labor with low levels
of formal schooling in the most industrialized cities. Notwithstanding
the important average annual increase in employment among
formal wage-earners job, which allowed the immediate access
to social and workers rights, there was great repression of
unions in addition to political authoritarianism that led
to decreases in wages.
the highest rate of wage earning, which went from 19.6% in
1960 to 45.4% of the Economically Active Population in 1980,
was only enough to compensate for the fall in the purchasing
power of the minimum wage, which, according to the calculation
of the DIEESE, was an accumulation of 38.4% during this period.
Because of this, it was observed that even the worker employed
under formal written contract in a large firm did not have
the means to live decently. Rather, the worker had to relocate
to the slums in the large cities.
the period from 1980 to 2000, the evolution of the social
exclusion suffered a deep change. Contrary to what had occurred
previously, the period of 1980 to 2000 was permeated by a
pair of contradictions that involved a combination of low
expansion of economic activity with advances in the political
the return of Brazilian democracy, with reorganization of
the political parties and electoral system and strengthening
of labor unions and social organizations, was constrained
by the absence of sustained economic growth. The national
per capita income, for example, only grew 0.36% during the
period 1980-2000, as an annual average, well below that seen
in the previous period (1960-80), when per capita income increased
an average of 4.58% annually. Beyond a certain stagnation
in the evolution of the national per capita income, strong
oscillations in economic activity were seen accompanied by
a long hyperinflationary period from 1979-1994.
these weak economic conditions, the performance of the labor
market was negative. In a way, the expansion of wage-earning
jobs was deceptive, being responsible for the fall in the
formal wage earning rate that resulted from the comparison
between the wage-earning employees with legal workplace rights
and the total number of jobs.
these unfavorable economic conditions, social mobility was
weakened, even with the increase in education of the population
and the greater offerings of professional training courses.
In the same way, the decrease of poverty was impeded by the
difficulties of accessing the consumer credit system and the
financing of home ownership, all brought about by high real
interest rates and instability in the economy and the labor
unfortunately, became more pronounced in the large metropolitan
areas in Brazil. In other words, the urbanization of poverty
happened in the large metropolitan cities, which until the
final part of the 1970s, were centers of attraction because
of the opportunities for work and a better life. Those same
cities are now centers of unemployment, pollution, floods,
a certain sense, the conditions of production and reproduction
of new social exclusion, which were unemployment and the lack
of hope for upward social mobility, were revealed in the explosion
of urban violence combined with inequality. Even having defeated
clearly the old exclusion (poverty, illiteracy and poor education),
Brazil is disappointing for the most recent advances of new
social exclusion (unemployment, income disparity, and violence).
Because of this, the process of marginalization showed significant
changes, once the country showed it was incapable of overcoming
the so-called old exclusion, not to mention combating the
advance of the new exclusion. It is important to emphasize
the fact that Brazil has gone through such situations without
having carried out the classic reforms of modern-day capitalism.
In short, the country fears implementing land reform in a
way that most developed countries already have before or during
the 20th century, like Japan and Italy in the immediate post-war
this same sense, tax reform has not been realized, specifically
one that favors justice, for while the rich practically do
not pay taxes, it is the poor that end up contributing disproportionately
to the country's total taxes. Since the 1990s, close to 1/3
of total tax revenue has been locked up in servicing the public
the absence of true social reform, the type capable of permitting
a just distribution of national wealth imposes not only greater
income disparity but an added pressure within the labor market.
Under insufficient income, Brazil has more of the youth segment
of the population leaving school early to enter the workforce
at the same time that retirees and pensioners are remaining
in their jobs and workers are working longer hours via over-time
or by taking on second jobs.
Professor at the Institute of Economy and a researcher with
the Center for Trade Union Studies and of the Economy of Labor
of the State University of Campinas. Secretary of Development,
Labor, and Solidarity of the City of São Paulo