By Mariana Tokarnia
Brazil saw a new record number of people living in poverty and extreme poverty in 2021. In all, almost one in three people in the country—29.4 percent of the population—lived in poverty until at least last year, and almost one in ten people—8.4 percent—struggled under extreme poverty.
The data can be found in the study Síntese de Indicadores Sociais: uma análise das condições de vida da população brasileira 2022 (“Synthesis of Social Indicators – an analysis of the living conditions of the Brazilian population 2022”), or SIS, released by official statistics agency IBGE.
Per the publication, until last year Brazil had 62.5 million people in poverty (daily income below $5.5) and 17.9 million in extreme poverty (daily income below $1.90, as defined by the World Bank). Both the absolute numbers and the percentages are the highest since the start of the time series in 2012.
The increase between 2020 and 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, is also a record high. In that period, the contingent below the poverty line grew 22.7 percent, or 11.6 million people, and the group of people in extreme poverty expanded by 48.2 percent, or 5.8 million.
Kids under 14 are the biggest victims of poverty. Until last year, 46.2 percent of this portion of the population was below the poverty line, the highest level in the series.
Poverty does not affect all social groups the same way. The study shows that, following IBGE’s definition, the proportion of black and mixed-race people below the poverty line (37.7%) is nearly twice that of white people (18.6%). As for the country’s regions, the Northeast (48.7%) and the North (44.9%) had the highest proportion of poor people in their population.
In 2021, household income per person plunged to BRL 1,353—the lowest since 2012—and the Gini index went up again, reaching 0.544, the second highest in the series.
Also reported as rising in Brazil was food insecurity—when people do not have regular and permanent access to food in sufficient quantity and quality for their survival.
The percentage of households enjoying food security fell from 65.1 in 2004 to 63.3 percent in 2018 and to 41.3 percent in 2021. Since the main access to food is made via the market, the evolution of income and labor market conditions are key in determining the level of food security, given that eating hinges essentially on people’s purchasing power.
The devaluation of the real, inflation, and the increase in informal work are also factors impacting food security levels of the population during the pandemic, the study adds.