By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter
BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – For the first time, more than half of Brazil’s population is categorized as middle class, according to Voices of the Middle Class, a study undertaken by the Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos (Strategic Affairs Secretariat, SAE). The report was released Thursday (September 20th) by The Minister of SAE, Moreira Franco.
The SAE defines those in the middle class as people who live in households with a per capita monthly income of between R$291 (US$145) and R$1,019 (US$500) and have a low probability of becoming poor in the near future.
Over the past ten years, 35 million people joined the middle class in Brazil, which in 2002 represented 38 percent of the population of the country. Today, 104 million Brazilians, or 53 percent of the population, are in the middle class.
According to the study, the expansion of this group resulted from countrywide economic growth and reduced inequality. If these trends are maintained, an estimated 57 percent of the population will be in the middle class by 2022.
Brazil has in the past suffered from high levels of income inequality – its executives boast the highest pay in the world – but successive governments have, over the past decade, sought to remedy this.
The Bolsa Família program provides direct financial support to Brazil’s poorest families in return for ensuring that their children are vaccinated and attend school, while the country’s minimum wage increased some sixty percent between 2002 and 2010 and currently stands at R$622 per month.
More people left the lower class than joined the upper class, the data indicated. Between 2002 and 2012, 21 percent of the population rose from the lower class to the middle class, while six percent rose from the middle class to the upper class.
The Minister of SAE, Moreira Franco, highlighted the importance of the growing middle class in boosting the slowing economy, as that socio-economic group accounts for 38 percent of the nation’s income and household consumption.
“Some 18 million jobs were created in the last decade, these formal jobs were associated with an minimum wage policy that gave real gains above inflation to Brazilians,” Franco told the press.
During the last decade the income of the middle class grew, on average, 3.5 percent per year, while the overall average income of Brazilian families grew 2.4 percent per year during the same period.
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