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Elderly Poverty in Brazil: Where To Go From Here?

Elderly Poverty in BrazilOver the past few decades, Brazil has experienced explosive development. Increased exports driven by increased growth within its manufacturing center, combined with a newly developing service sector and a rise in foreign investment have contributed to an increase in its citizens’ well-being and life expectancy. That said, as Brazilians are living longer, more attention is needed to address elderly poverty as the country’s social safety nets are already strained.

Daily Struggles

Currently, only around 4% of Brazilians aged 60 and older live in poverty. Though this is lower proportionately than other age demographics within Brazil, due to its social safety net and poverty reduction programs, the impoverished elderly within Brazil struggle greatly on a day-to-day basis. Brazil lacks age-friendly cities for its elder citizens, and while San Paulo and other cities have pushed for change, efforts have been slow to catch on across the country. Disability and illness affect many and worse health outcomes have been shown time and time again to disproportionately affect the elderly who are in poverty.

Though policy experts, data analysts and advocacy organizations warn of potential negative consequences in the future, multiple policy suggestions could prevent an overwhelming of Brazil’s social safety nets. Furthermore, private companies and non-governmental organizations are working right now to alleviate said consequences.

Prolonged Engagement With The Workforce

Policymakers have recommended that Brazil ought to encourage its elderly citizens to remain a part of the workforce as they age, according to the AARP International report. They have noted later retirement as a priority in order to prevent the rise of elderly poverty in Brazil because it reduces the number of people who are relying on Brazil’s social programs at any one time. Data has consistently shown that Brazil’s safety net and poverty reduction programs have been incredibly effective in reducing poverty and helping people in Brazil obtain their basic needs.

Most notable is the Continuing Benefits Program (BPC). These cash transfer programs contribute significantly to reductions in elderly poverty within Brazil and an increase in financial independence among those who receive payments from it. However, if people in Brazil continue to retire early, the BPC could have to spread its resources more thinly and thus become less effective in reducing poverty.

Increasing Job Availability

Many of the elderly people in Brazil choose to retire early because there is a lack of stable, good-paying jobs for people in their 50s and above. While both the government and the private sector have been slow to respond to this demand, when they have done so, there has been real success. The Ministry of Education launched the National Program of Access to Professional Education and Employment (PRONATEC). Although the elderly population is not primarily a target of the program, it still focuses on “promoting social and productive inclusion and offers financial assistance to low-income individuals” by providing them with educational opportunities through the program, according to the AARP International report.

Furthermore, the companies that choose to give the elderly a chance or create positions for elderly employees, notably Dotz and Pizza Hut, received a barrage of applications and have indicated that they want to tap further into the workforce of older applicants. While there undoubtedly ought to be more growth within this realm, the progress that has been made shows real promise.

On-the-Ground Solutions

Advocates have suggested several direct policy solutions in order to help the impoverished elderly within Brazil, there are NGOs in Brazil also playing their part in the solution. Velho Amigo is a notable nonprofit organization that advocates for elder rights as well as social inclusion of the socially and economically vulnerable elderly through its Heliopolis Coexistence Center. In 2019, it developed the Revitaliza program, which engages directly with shelter centers and long-stay institutions for the elderly, assisting in the improvement of service quality, engagement and sustainability.

Although there is uncertainty about whether Brazil’s social programs will be able to support the expected increase in the elderly population, the work of agencies and nonprofits is helping to stem further increases in elderly poverty rates.

– Alexander Pommells
Photo: Flickr