Arquivo da tag: Desemprego

Ravaged by Covid, Brazil Faces a Hunger Epidemic (New York Times)

Tens of millions of Brazilians are facing hunger or food insecurity as the country’s Covid-19 crisis drags on, killing thousands of people every day.

Lining up for lunch outside a Catholic charity in São Paulo. The number of people going hungry has nearly doubled in Brazil recently.
Lining up for lunch outside a Catholic charity in São Paulo. The number of people going hungry has nearly doubled in Brazil recently.

By Ernesto Londoño and Flávia Milhorance

Photographs by Victor Moriyama

April 23, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rail-thin teenagers hold placards at traffic stops with the word for hunger — fome — in large print. Children, many of whom have been out of school for over a year, beg for food outside supermarkets and restaurants. Entire families huddle in flimsy encampments on sidewalks, asking for baby formula, crackers, anything.

A year into the pandemic, millions of Brazilians are going hungry.

The scenes, which have proliferated in the last months on Brazil’s streets, are stark evidence that President Jair Bolsonaro’s bet that he could protect the country’s economy by resisting public health policies intended to curb the virus has failed.

From the start of the outbreak, Brazil’s president has been skeptical of the disease’s impact, and scorned the guidance of health experts, arguing that the economic damage wrought by the lockdowns, business closures and mobility restrictions they recommended would be a bigger threat than the pandemic to the country’s weak economy.

That trade-off led to one of the world’s highest death tolls, but also foundered in its goal — to keep the country afloat.

The virus is ripping through the social fabric, setting wrenching records, while the worsening health crisis pushes businesses into bankruptcy, killing jobs and further hampering an economy that has grown little or not at all for more than six years.

Daniela dos Santos cooking a meal in downtown São Paulo. The pandemic aggravated Brazil’s economic crisis, increasing the rolls of the unemployed and the homeless.
Daniela dos Santos cooking a meal in downtown São Paulo. The pandemic aggravated Brazil’s economic crisis, increasing the rolls of the unemployed and the homeless.
Volunteers distributing sandwiches and soup.
Volunteers distributing sandwiches and soup.

Last year, emergency government cash payments helped put food on the table for millions of Brazilians — but when the money was scaled back sharply this year, with a debt crisis looming, many pantries were left bare.

About 19 million people have gone hungry over the past year — nearly twice the 10 million who did so in 2018, the most recent year for which data were available, according to the Brazilian government and a study of privation during the pandemic by a network of Brazilian researchers focused on the issue.

And about 117 million people, or roughly 55 percent of the country’s population, faced food insecurity, with uncertain access to enough nutrition, in 2020 — a leap from the 85 million who did so two years previous, the study showed.

“The way the government has handled the virus has deepened poverty and inequality,” said Douglas Belchior, the founder of UNEafro Brasil, one of a handful of organizations that have banded together to raise money to get food baskets to vulnerable communities. “Hunger is a serious and intractable problem in Brazil.”

Luana de Souza, 32, was one of several mothers who lined up outside an improvised food pantry on a recent afternoon hoping to score a sack with beans, rice and cooking oil. Her husband had worked for a company that organized events, but lost his job last year — one of eight million people who joined Brazil’s unemployment rolls during the pandemic, driving the rate above 14 percent, according to Brazil’s Institute of Geography and Statistics.

At first the family managed by spending their government assistance carefully, she said, but this year, once the payments were cut, they struggled.

“There is no work,” she said. “And the bills keep coming.”

Ismael dos Santos asks drivers for change at a traffic light.
Ismael dos Santos asks drivers for change at a traffic light.
Members of an evangelical church serving breakfast.
Members of an evangelical church serving breakfast.

Brazil’s economy had gone into recession in 2014, and had not recovered when the pandemic hit. Mr. Bolsonaro often invoked the reality of families like Ms. de Souza’s, who cannot afford to stay home without working, to argue that the type of lockdowns governments in Europe and other wealthy nations ordered to curb the spread of the virus were untenable in Brazil.

Last year, as governors and mayors around Brazil signed decrees shutting down nonessential businesses and restricting mobility, Mr. Bolsonaro called those measures “extreme” and warned that they would result in malnutrition.

The president also dismissed the threat of the virus, sowed doubts about vaccines, which his government has been slow to procure, and often encouraged crowds of supporters at political events.

As a second wave of cases this year led to the collapse of the health care system in several cities, local officials again imposed a raft of strict measures — and found themselves at war with Mr. Bolsonaro.

“People have to have freedom, the right to work,” he said last month, calling the new quarantine measures imposed by local governments tantamount to living in a “dictatorship.”

Early this month, as the daily death toll from the virus sometimes surpassed 4,000, Mr. Bolsonaro acknowledged the severity of the humanitarian crisis facing his country. But he took no responsibility and instead faulted local officials.

“Brazil is at the limit,” he said, arguing that the blame lay with “whoever closed everything.”

But economists said that the argument that restrictions intended to control the virus would worsen Brazil’s economic downturn was “a false dilemma.”

In an open letter addressed to Brazilian authorities in late March, more than 1,500 economists and businesspeople asked the government to impose stricter measures, including lockdown.

“It is not reasonable to expect economic activity to recover from an uncontrolled epidemic,” the experts wrote.

Laura Carvalho, an economist, published a study showing that restrictions can have a negative short-term impact on a country’s financial health, but that, in the long run, it would have been a better strategy.

“If Bolsonaro had carried out lockdown measures, we would have moved earlier from the economic crisis,” said Ms. Carvalho, a professor at the University of São Paulo.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s approach had a broadly destabilizing effect, said Thomas Conti, lecturer at Insper, a business school.

“The Brazilian real was the most devalued currency among all developing countries,” Mr. Conti said. “We are at an alarming level of unemployment, there is no predictability to the future of the country, budget rules are being violated, and inflation grows nonstop.”

Evangelical church members performing baptisms while distributing food.
Evangelical church members performing baptisms while distributing food.
Volunteers with a Catholic charity preparing meals for the hungry in São Paulo.
Volunteers with a Catholic charity preparing meals for the hungry in São Paulo.

The country’s worsening Covid-19 crisis has left Mr. Bolsonaro politically vulnerable. The Senate this month began an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. The study is expected to document missteps, including the government’s endorsement of drugs that are ineffective to treat Covid-19 and shortages of basic medical supplies, including oxygen. Some of those missteps are likely to be blamed for preventable deaths.

Creomar de Souza, a political analyst and the founder of the consultancy Dharma Politics in Brasília, said the president underestimated the threat the pandemic posed to the country and failed to put together a comprehensive plan to address it.

“They thought it wouldn’t be something serious and figured that the health system would be able to handle it,” he said.

Mr. de Souza said Mr. Bolsonaro has always campaigned and governed combatively, appealing to voters by presenting himself as an alternative to dangerous rivals. His response to the pandemic has been consistent with that playbook, he said.

“The great loss, in addition to the increasing number of victims in this tragedy, is an erosion of governance,” he said. “We’re facing a scenario of high volatility, with a lot of political risks, because the government didn’t deliver on public policies.”

Advocacy and human rights organizations earlier this year started a campaign called Tem Gente Com Fome, or People are Going Hungry, with the aim of raising money from companies and individuals to get food baskets to needy people across the country.

Mr. Belchior, one of the founders, said the campaign was named after a poem by the writer and artist Solano Trindade. It describes scenes of misery viewed as a train in Rio de Janeiro makes its way across poor neighborhoods where the state has been all but absent for decades.

“Families are increasingly pleading for earlier food deliveries,” said Mr. Belchior. “And they’re depending more on community actions than the government.”

Waiting in line for food to be handed out.
Waiting in line for food to be handed out.
Joaquim Ribeiro searching for recyclable materials to sell.
Joaquim Ribeiro searching for recyclable materials to sell.

Carine Lopes, 32, the president of a community ballet school in Manguinhos, a low-income, working-class district of Rio de Janeiro, has responded to the crisis by turning her organization into an impromptu relief center.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the price of basic products rose dramatically at nearby stores, she said. The cost of cooking oil more than tripled. A kilogram of rice goes for twice as much. As meat became increasingly prohibitive, Sunday outdoor cookouts became a rarity in the neighborhood.

Long used to fielding calls from parents who desperately wanted a slot for their children at the ballet school, Ms. Lopes has gotten used to a very different appeal. Old acquaintances and strangers text her daily asking about the food baskets the ballet school has been distributing weekly.

“These moms and dads are only thinking about basic things now,” she said. “They call and say: ‘I’m unemployed. I don’t have anything else to eat this week. Is there anything you can give us?’”

When the virus finally recedes, the poorest families will have the hardest time bouncing back, she said.

Ms. Lopes despairs thinking of students who have been unable to tune in to online classes in households that have no internet connection, or where the only device with a screen belongs to a working parent.

“No one will be able to compete for a scholarship with a middle-class student who managed to keep up with classes using their good internet and their tablets,” she said. “Inequality is being exacerbated.”

Handing out food baskets.
Handing out food baskets.

Ernesto Londoño is the Brazil bureau chief, based in Rio de Janeiro. He was previously an editorial writer and, before joining The Times in 2014, reported for The Washington Post.

Perda total ou em parte da renda mensal já atingiu 40% dos brasileiros (Carta Capital)

Agência Brasil

Perda total ou em parte da renda mensal já atingiu 40% dos brasileiros. Foto: AFP.

Perda total ou em parte da renda mensal já atingiu 40% dos brasileiros. Foto: AFP.

Pesquisa da CNI mostra que a maioria da população brasileira continua favorável ao isolamento social, apesar das possíveis perdas econômicas

Pesquisa da Confederação Nacional da Indústria (CNI), divulgada nesta quinta-feira 07, mostra que a perda do poder de compra já atingiu quatro em cada dez brasileiros desde o início da pandemia. Do total de entrevistados, 23% perderam totalmente a renda e 17% tiveram redução no ganho mensal, atingindo o percentual de 40%.

Quase metade dos trabalhadores (48%) tem medo grande de perder o emprego. Somado ao percentual daqueles que têm medo médio (19%) ou pequeno (10%), o índice chega a 77% de pessoas que estão no mercado de trabalho e têm medo de perder o emprego. De modo geral, nove em cada dez entrevistados consideram grandes os impactos da pandemia de coronavírus na economia brasileira.

A pesquisa mostra também que o impacto na renda e o medo do desemprego levaram 77% dos consumidores a reduzir, durante o período de isolamento social, o consumo de pelo menos um de 15 produtos testados. Ou seja, de cada quatro brasileiros, três reduziram seus gastos. Apenas 23% dos entrevistados não reduziram em nada suas compras, na comparação com o hábito anterior ao período da pandemia.

Questionada sobre como pretende se comportar no futuro, a maioria dos brasileiros planeja manter no período pós-pandemia o nível de consumo adotado durante o isolamento, sendo que os percentuais variam de 50% a 72% dos entrevistados, dependendo do produto. Essa tendência, segundo a CNI, pode indicar que as pessoas não estão dispostas a retomar o mesmo patamar de compras que tinham antes.

Apenas 1% dos entrevistados respondeu que vai aumentar o consumo de todos os 15 itens testados pela pesquisa após o fim do isolamento social. Para 46%, a pretensão é aumentar o consumo de até cinco produtos; 8% vão aumentar o consumo de seis a dez produtos; e 2% de 11 a 14 produtos. Para 44% dos entrevistados, não haverá aumento no consumo de nenhum dos itens.

Isolamento social

Os dados revelam que a população brasileira continua favorável ao isolamento social (86%), apesar das possíveis perdas econômicas, e quase todo mundo (93%) mudou sua rotina durante o período de isolamento, em diferentes graus.

No cenário pós-pandemia, três em cada dez brasileiros falam em voltar a uma rotina igual à que tinham antes. Em relação ao retorno para o trabalho depois de terminado o isolamento social, 43% dos trabalhadores formais e informais afirmaram que se sentem seguros, enquanto 39% se dizem mais ou menos seguros e 18%, inseguros.

“As atenções dos governos, das empresas e da sociedade devem estar voltadas, prioritariamente, para preservar vidas. Entretanto, é crucial que nos preocupemos também com a sobrevivência das empresas e com a manutenção dos empregos. É preciso estabelecer uma estratégia consistente para que, no momento oportuno, seja possível promover uma retomada segura e gradativa das atividades empresariais”, disse o presidente da CNI, Robson Braga de Andrade.

A maior parte dos entrevistados (96%) considera importante que as empresas adotem medidas de segurança, como a distribuição de máscaras e a adoção de uma distância mínima entre os colaboradores. Para 82% dos trabalhadores, essas medidas serão eficientes para proteger os empregados.

Dívidas

Um dado apontado pela pesquisa e considerado preocupante pela CNI é o endividamento, que atinge mais da metade da população (53%). O percentual é a soma dos 38% que já estavam endividados antes da pandemia e os 15% que contraíram dívidas nos últimos 40 dias, período que coincide com o começo do isolamento social.

Entre aqueles que têm dívida, 40% afirmam que já estão com algum pagamento em atraso em alguma dessas dívidas. A maioria dos endividados em atraso (57%) passou a atrasar suas parcelas nos últimos 40 dias, ou seja, período que coincide com o isolamento social.

O levantamento, realizado pelo Instituto FSB Pesquisa, contou com 2.005 entrevistados, a partir de 16 anos, de todas as unidades da Federação, entre os dias 2 e 4 de maio e tem margem de erro de dois pontos percentuais.