By Lindsay Spratt, Sub Editor
RIO DE JANEIRO – 2008 National Census figures were released last month by the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (PNAD, National Research by Sample of Residences), carried out by the Insituto Brasileiro de Geográfia e Estatística, (IBGE, Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics).
The annual census is the biggest of its kind in Brazil, with data collected from 391,868 people in 150,951 homes in 2008, and spread out across every state. The distribution takes into account the proportion of different types of homes in order to faithfully reflect the state of the nation.
The census was carried out in September of last year, and thus reflects the country’s rapid growth before the global economic crisis hit Brazil in October 2008. Last month’s headlines in the newspapers O Globo and Folha de São Paulo reflected job statistics.
Unemployment figures reached their lowest since 1996, at 7.2 percent, and experienced a one percent decrease from 2007. Economist Lauro Ramos, from the Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (IPEA), (Institute of Applied Economic Research), described this as Brazil’s “best post-Real moment”.
Salaries also increased, with the average monthly wage at R$1,036, the highest since 1998 and at an increase of 1.7 percent from 2007. The highest monthly wages belong to the cities of Brasília and São Paulo, with R$2,117 and R$1,290 respectively.
Civil construction was the sector with the biggest increase in employment, with 6,905 million new jobs on the market at an increase of 14.1 percent from 2007. The number of people employed in this sector has now also exceeded those employed as domestic housekeepers, currently at 6.626 million.
The percentage of people formally employed has also increased by 6.6 percent from 2007, but the total percentage is still low, at 34.9 percent.
The census’ positive findings also include those expressing the closure of the inequality gap. Although 10 percent of the population generate 43 percent of the country’s wealth, the percentage generated by the bottom 50 percent (economically speaking) has risen by 22 percent since 1998 to total 18 percent as of 2008.
The ‘Gini’ index, which measures inequality, shows a fall from 0.528 to 0.521, with the lower percentage the better of the two.
According to economist Marcelo Neri, the effects of government social programs such as the increased distribution of the Bolsa Família (Family Fund), now reaching over eleven million families, has been less influential than job market growth.
Figures showing home internet access show a rise from 20 percent of the population in 2007 to 23.8 percent in 2008. The percentage of Brazilians with a home computer stands at 31.2 percent and 82.1 percent have a telephone.
The census’ most important negative finding was Brazil’s failure to tackle illiteracy, with only a 0.1 percent drop from 2007 in those above fifteen years of age. A small increase was also recorded in the number of illiterate adults from 14.136 million in 2007 to 14.247 million in 2008. The percentage of children between the ages of five and seventeen in informal work also fell insignificantly, from 4.819 million in 2007 to 4.452 in 2008.
The census also confirmed the huge differences in quality of life between different regions. The northeast remains the poorest area of Brazil, with an average monthly salary of less than R$800, while the southern states are the richest with salaries between R$1,100 and R$1,200. Brasília itself is also a grossly unequal city, as it is the wealthiest city in Brazil, with an average montly salary of R$2,117, but also the most unequal, with a Gini index of 0.618.