Brazil's new middle class faces plunge back to poverty

Published 22.11.2015 22:26

Brazilian Monica de Oliveira thought she had forever left behind those days of worrying about getting her daughter new clothes. As part of a wave of poor Brazilians entered a basic form of the middle class in recent years, de Oliveira was a Latin American success story. But for how much longer? A biting recession in the world's seventh-biggest economy is starting to undermine the country's widely lauded progress in dragging some 40 million people out of poverty, starting in 2003.

De Oliveira knows what it is like to be one of them, and now she is afraid her family is sliding back. She and her husband had a combined monthly salary of about $500 working as security guards in Caieiras, near Sao Paulo, and both have been laid off.

One-by-one their little luxuries have disappeared. Family outings on the weekend are over, the dream of a new car and bigger house is on hold. Even interest payments on debts are no longer feasible.

She's far from alone. Of the masses lifted from poverty under the leftist presidencies of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from 2003-2010 and his current successor Dilma Rousseff, some 3 million families will re-enter poverty in the next two years, economist Adriano Pitoli, from Tendencias consultants, predicts.

At the economic peak in 2010, when gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.5 percent, Brazil seemed to have it made. Demand, especially from China, for Brazilian commodities such as iron ore and beef, created a boom reaching the lowest rungs of society, with many getting first time access to previously inaccessible goods like air conditioning and consumer products.

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