Brazil record-low unemployment creating scarcity of maids

November 21, 2012

David Biller, Raymond Colitt – Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/20/2012

For a decade Geane Menezes earned no more than $250 a month cleaning the home of a wealthy Brazilian family. Now she sells souvenirs at an airport store in the northeastern city of Recife and plans to open a business.

“I feel more valued and earn twice as much,” Menezes, 34, said while tending the store’s hammocks and cashews.

Menezes isn’t the only one hanging up her apron. With unemployment in Latin America’s biggest economy at record lows, poor women who for decades formed a pool of cheap domestic labor for the middle and upper classes are pursuing better-paying, higher-skilled jobs. The result is a shrinking supply of help, which has allowed the remaining nannies, maids and cooks to command wage increases at more than double the rate of inflation since 2006.

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Rousseff raises Brazil social spending cuts

March 2, 2011

Stabroek News/Reuters, 03/02/2011

Brazil’s President Dilma  Rousseff announced yesterday an increase of nearly a fifth on  financial aid under a flagship social welfare program, after  implementing a series of austerity measures in recent weeks.

The move, which she announced during a trip to the  northeastern state of Bahia, is likely to be seized on by  critics as a sign that her commitment is wavering on budget  cuts needed to cool the economy and stamp out inflation.

Rousseff, who pledged after winning last October’s election  to eradicate extreme poverty in Latin America’s largest  economy, said financial aid under the Bolsa Familia program  would rise by an average of 19 percent.

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Lula says goodbye, signals hello to aid work

December 20, 2010

Raymond Colitt – Reuters, 12/17/2010

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (L), Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) and Paraguay's Fernando Lugo pose for a family photo during the 40th Mercosur Summit in Foz de Iguazu, December 17, 2010. Reuters/Enrique Marcarian

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Friday he will work on alleviating poverty in Africa when he steps down from office, but played down speculation that he might be interested in heading the United Nations.

The enormously popular Lula, attending his last international summit as president, heard appeals from other South American leaders that he continue to represent the region in international affairs. Bolivian President Evo Morales suggested that he head the United Nations.

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Universal basic income would combat inequality in Latin America

December 8, 2010

Darío Montero – InterPress Service, 12/07/2010

Darío Montero interviews MARTÍN HOPENHAYN, head of ECLAC’s Social Development Division

Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Uruguay and even Brazil are close to being able to provide a universal basic income to all citizens, which is the way to make cash transfers an effective tool in fighting inequality, according to Martín Hopenhayn.

“The premise is that citizens, as such, are entitled to a minimum level of subsistence,” said Hopenhayn, the director of the Social Development Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

But in order to sustain such payments, in-depth reforms of tax systems in the region are needed, Hopenhayn told IPS in an interview during a late November seminar organised by ECLAC in San Diego, California to disseminate and highlight the results of its five-year Experiences in Social Innovation contest.

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Rousseff faces big challenges

November 3, 2010

Glauco Arbix – Miami Herald, 11/03/2010

Brazil has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. It has set its economy on the right course, reduced poverty, lessened inequality and consolidated its democracy. The ghosts of the past — authoritarianism, political persecution and censorship — have been left behind, as Brazilian democracy passed important tests such as the impeachment of a president and the rise to the presidency of a former trade-union leader.

Brazil has now passed another test: having a woman at the height of executive power. The challenges facing President-elect Dilma Rousseff are huge, but so are her advantages. The basis for continued rapid economic development has been established, and there is nothing to suggest the possibility of significant change in inflation targets, the autonomy of the central bank or the floating exchange rate.

Rousseff owes her victory to outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the success of his administration. She knows that Brazil’s progress under Lula was supported by stable economic growth, higher social transfers to poor households through programs such as Bolsa Familia and democracy.

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Brazil’s Bolsa Família: How to get children out of jobs and into school

August 2, 2010

The Economist, 07/29/2010

THREE generations of the Teixeira family live in three tiny rooms in Eldorado, one of the poorest favelas (slums) of Greater São Paulo, the largest city in the Americas. The matriarch of the family, Maria, has six children; her eldest daughter, Marina, has a toddler and a baby. Like many other households in thefavela, the family has been plagued by domestic violence. But a few years ago, helped in part by Bolsa Família (family grant)—which pays mothers a small sum so long as their children stay in education and get medical check-ups—Maria took her children out of child labour and sent them to school.

The programme allows the children to miss about 15% of classes. But if a child gets caught missing more than that, payment is suspended for the whole family. The Teixeiras’ grant has been suspended and restarted several times as boy after boy skipped classes. And now the eldest, João, aged 16, is out earning a bit of money by cleaning cars or distributing leaflets, taking his younger brothers with him. Marina’s pregnancies have added to the pressure. She gets no money for her children because she lives with her mother and the family has reached Bolsa Família’s upper limit. After rallying for a while, the Teixeira family is sliding backwards, struggling more than it did a couple of years ago.

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