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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

Marcio Pochmann*

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.

Moreover, 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.

From 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.

Legal 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.

For 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.

The 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.

This 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.

Before 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".

Conservative resistance
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).

In 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 areas.

The 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.

Thus, 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.

For 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 democratic arena.

Thus, 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.

Under 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.

Under 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 market.

This, 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, and violence.

In 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 period.

In 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 debt.

Also, 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