La politique sociale du Brésil au xxie siècle
Article Index
Who benefits from the Bolsa Familia Programme?
Addressing poverty and the informal sector
Structural fragility of Brazilian workers

Deploying an effective social policy is no simple matter. Brazil, long known as one of the world's most unequal countries, is making considerable progress in reducing inequality and improving living conditions, in particular for its informal workers. To understand Brazil's success, we must look at the country's experience from 1930 to its recent Fome Zero and Bolsa Familia programmes. Brazil is a major proving ground for an innovative social insurance system that may adapt itself to disparate local realities.

Brazil's social achievements in the first decade of the 21st century are remarkable and have captured the world's attention. Indeed, the country became and continues to be an important kind of laboratory for the experimentation of social policies and for testing them on a massive scale. The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is under way and, in order to keep momentum, the country now has to overcome challenges to boost the supply side of the low and middle-income strata of the economy to favour urban, rural and forest populations. These transformations are necessary for a sustainable development pattern, both socially and environmentally. The reader must be aware that this laboratory does not provide ready-to-use solutions, but rather shows that knowledge about the social problems to be tackled is a starting point. This is the basis for pragmatic governmental action; solutions must emerge from the specific institutional frameworks and social structures of individual countries. The upcoming pages describe the pathway to social inclusion undertaken by Brazil in the last decade, taking into account its specific institutional, political and social background.

Brazil's social policy in historical perspective

Poverty and hunger are social phenomena. While they are very real to anyone living under such social conditions, they may sound like a faraway tale to those who have never experienced such suffering. Be as it may, the fact is that no country, seen as a social organism, can fully develop its potential with such social atrophy remaining among its population (see chapter 4). To overcome the problem of poverty and hunger a society must have the political will to implement all embracing in-depth policies, confronting various difficulties that are caused by the lingering effects of long-standing existing policies and practices, which must be dealt with for once and for all. The very understanding of hunger and poverty phenomena may at first sight appear simple, but in reality the issue is highly complex.

Brazil became a republic in 1889. Slavery had formally been abolished just one year before. Agriculture was the main economic activity, which since it was oriented to commodity export, was based close to the ocean. Only a small part of the population benefited from this activity, specifically big farmers and traders. Throughout the hinterland, the Brazilian population formed a huge mass of deprived people.

By the 1930s the country was undergoing a transition from a commodity export-oriented economy to a more inward-oriented industrial one. By this time, there was already a rising urban middle class in the works. Social policies were being built that were structured and focused on labour rights, health and education of the formal urban worker. The great majority of rural inhabitants remained outside of this dynamic.

Throughout the next 50 years the country was to undergo a long-term industrialization process. But again, in order to support this rising reality, attention was primarily given, in terms of social improvements, to that same formal social stratum. From health networks to the gathering of social data, the focus was unequivocal: the formal urban worker. The core idea was that this social-economic pattern would one day be universalized. However, this did not turn out to be the case, not in Brazil, nor in the World-System as a whole (Wallerstein, 1995).

Social policies in the re-emerging democracy

During this long-term development trend, the country was able to include into the formal segment around half of its population, until the model stagnated during the 1980s, precisely when Brazil was overcoming a three-decade long dictatorial regime. By the middle of the decade the country had re-established the right to have a civilian president, although one that was elected indirectly, and just three years later in 1988 a new Constitution was proclaimed.

However, by this time Brazil had ceased to grow at such a rapid rate and the federal budget was significantly compromised by the massive foreign debt burden that had been acquired during the previous decade. The aspirations for in-depth social reform advocated by the rising fresh new democracy were therefore obstructed. As a result, the government's social budget stagnated, caught between economic and financial contingencies and social pressure for expansive reforms.

The new Constitution established an ample spectrum of social rights and inaccurate attributions to the three executive dimensions of the nation: municipal, state and federal. The new constitutional frame was not yet backed by a legal apparatus, able to set specific responsibilities to each of the three levels of the executive branch. With unsettled legal obligations, government heads could politically and legally avoid some social responsibilities.

By the end of the first government of the post-democratization Brazil (1986-1990), one third of Brazilians under five years old remained undernourished (INAM/IBGE/IPEA, 1990). Unemployment was at around 7% of the working population (Ipeadata, 2012). Hunger and poverty acquired political relevance to Brazilian society. An increasing number of personalities from various walks of intellectual and cultural life started a movement

Ação da Cidadania Contra a Fome, a Miséria e pela Vida (Citizenship Action Against Hunger, Misery and for life), created in 1993.

that led to a more proactive social awareness: hunger was no longer acceptable in a food-exporting country ranked among the top ten economies in the world. The next President, Fernando Collor, did not improve on this scenario (1990-1992). On the contrary, by the time of his second year in power, food and nutrition policies underwent a budget reduction of around 80%. The subsequent government of Itamar Franco (1993-1994) inherited a political atmosphere of social mobilization. A new format of political articulation was set in motion by different government areas, while the participation of civil society in government decisions was facilitated by the creation of the National Council for Food and Nutrition Security. Its suggestion to decentralize policies to improve cooperation with municipalities began to be taken seriously by the federal government.

At the same time, Map of Hunger (Pelianno, 1993) was published by an important public think tank

Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (IPEA), Institute of Applied Economic Research (

, which highlighted the fact that 32 million people were living in hunger in Brazil. These people were dispersed throughout the country, in rural and urban areas. This publication also provided an analysis of the food production situation, concluding that Brazil produced an amount of calories and proteins that could feed a population 50% bigger than its own. A huge and alarming difference was identified between producer price and food cost to the final consumer.

Civil mobilization over the problem of poverty and hunger kept rising, in confrontation with the limits of Brazil's development process. The aim to universalize the income pattern of the formal industrial worker spread worldwide in the 20th century, pushing political forces forward in many nations to structure social security systems (Wallerstein, 1995). This idea of the universalization of welfare was embedded into the 1988 Brazilian Constitution.

Health and education were established as civil rights in Brazil, but historically they had been geared towards the formal urban worker and thus for the main part only provided good quality services to this sector of society. Now, the forces pushing for democratization were pressing governments to extend these services to the entire population. However, since the budget was in decline, broadening the reach of these systems meant lowering their quality. As a result, and due to the encouragement of income tax reductions, the upper middle class moved to private education and health care.

This delineates the reality of welfare policies in Brazil during the 1990s: more people were able to access schools and hospitals, but they received lower quality services. Furthermore, despite the cost-cutting reduction in quality, these services were still not able to cover the entire population. Social assistance was scattered and left open to hijack by local political powers for electoral purposes, leading to problems of continuity as well as of focus away from those who were really in need. Thus, no clear-cut pathways to de facto continuous social inclusion were offered to poor families.

The great policy contribution for poverty reduction during that decade occurred in 1994 and was a side effect of the end of high inflation. The poor no longer had to deal with the month-by-month erosion of their income due to inflation. This increased the monetary value of their income, allowing them to spend more on consumption, thus taking 10 million people out of poverty (Peliano, 2010).

From 1995 to 2002, the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso advanced a neoliberal agenda with strong fiscal efforts. The National Council for Food and Nutrition Security was replaced by a Council with a broader focus on poverty, presided over by the first lady. An Executive Secretariat was created with no budget, its mission being that of linking and stimulating anti-poverty actions among the different ministries and with civil society.

However, contractionist macroeconomic policies were leading to increased unemployment, which reached 10.4% in 1999 (Ipeadata, 2012), along with a rise in social tension. Social policies were especially affected and, in accordance with the government's neoliberal agenda and its minimalistic idea of State, focalization on the poorest was chosen as a response to overcome budget limitations, at the expense of classical universal policies, such as education, health, pensions and other worker's rights.

The new generation of Brazil's social policies

In reaction to this neoliberal pathway that had not managed to reduce the social pressures that had emerged during the re-democratization process, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (popularly known as Lula) won the first presidential election of the current century on the strength of his electoral campaign which focused on a structured social agenda. The fight against hunger and poverty thus became the top priority of the new federal government.

When Lula's Workers'Party came to power at the federal executive it introduced the Fome Zero Programme (Zero Hunger), which was based on four lines of approach: (i) access to food; (ii) the strengthening of family agriculture; (iii) income generation; and (iv) institutional linkages, mobilization and social control (Aranha, 2010). Furthermore, the new government had a broad development strategy based on the strengthening of the Brazilian internal market, employment creation and increasing the capacity for State action (Brasil, 2003). Social policies became part of the arsenal not only to fight hunger, but also to stimulate the internal market and income generation in regions where they had stagnated.

A great number of policy proposals were now on the table, drawn from ideas that had emerged in debates since the 1980s and from many experiences that had been locally tested. There was also a need to continue the social policies that had been implemented by the previous government. The importance of this was realized once discontinuity, a characteristic of a fragile institutional and legal framework, was identified as a major problem associated with policies that focused on the poor. These efforts had a dispersive nature among different ministries and produced little intersectorial

Brazil's multi party political system, its logic of coalition during elections and how each party of the winning coalition is granted with the power to appoint a Ministry or Secretary of its own, makes intersectorial work very difficult.


The Extraordinary Ministry for Food Security and the Fight Against Hunger (MESA) was thus created to unite actions in the fight against poverty and hunger. Although it had greater institutional strength than the preceding Council that was presided over by the first lady, it still had no budget to implement policies of its own and its ability to link up different areas was redundant towards other government areas with similar functions, such as Casa Civil - which was later to become the main source of support to the President in his efforts to bring about more synergy between different areas, from infrastructure investment to action against hunger. In its first year, Fome Zero embraced 36 different actions. But the optimism for these proposals that were based on sound values was, as is usually the case, not enough: social policies must have efficacy and efficiency and, in Brazil, they must function on a massive scale.

There had been no previous experience of massive anti-poverty policies with a permanent structure and transparent rules. Some policies implemented during the beginning of the government showed good results and others were to have a complex execution or weak impact. Therefore a draft process occurred where some policies could expand, becoming structural to Fome Zero's strategy; some remained very limited in range, as if in pilot mode; and a few were simply discontinued. Federal per capita annual expenditure in social policies rose from US$950 to US$3,325 between 2003 and 2010 (IPEA, 2012); and federal social expenditure rose as a percentage of the total federal budget (see figure 2). As this budget increased in real terms, reaching US$320 billion, it is evidence that there was indeed a political effort to strengthen social protection in Brazil.

Identification and targeting

Identification of the target population and of their living conditions was the first key challenge for anti-poverty policies. Previously, identification systems were based on those who were already included in welfare policies or framed by formal employment. Such systems were designed to provide information about individuals, dissociated from their family structure. As policies were fragmented, so were their registry systems, throughout various ministries and federation levels. The creation in 2002 of the Unique Database for Federal Government Social Programmes (Cadastro Único) and a unique social identification number was an important step to overcome this dispersion of social data sources. By the beginning of Lula's mandate, Unique Registry data still had a lot of flaws as far as quality and focus were concerned, and no federative pact had yet been built to allow for the necessary accountability.

In 2004, the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger (MDS) was created by the linkage of the Ministry of Social Assistance, the MESA and the Secretariat for Food and Nutrition Security. The new Ministry was now able to incorporate social assistance, the Bolsa Familia Programme (BFP - a conditioned cash transfer programme to poor families), the Unique Registry as well as food security. At the launch of the BFP in October 2003, the President led a federal negotiation process that resulted in joint management agreements which set municipal and federal responsibilities. Registry data gathering became a municipal task and the federal government established an index for decentralized management, used both as a monitoring tool and as a formal measurement to the financial counterpart by the Union to the administrative costs of data gathering.

Income and family size are declared by families to the Unique Registry and this information is used to determine whether a household is eligible to receive a BFP grant and if so for what amount. In 2012, the BFP had 13.7 million beneficiary families with a targeting error of around 5%, which the World Bank considered to be a "very impressive targeting accuracy" (LINDERT et al., 2007:2). Federal government uses estimation criteria based on previously existing survey systems

Brazil has well-established statistical institutions, for example the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) that was created in 1936. The IBGE has conducted a National Household survey on a regular basis since 1967 and a National Census every 10 years.

. For each of Brazil's 5,565 municipalities, MDS estimates the number of poor families, setting quantitative goals for families registered by municipal staff. As informality is a characteristic feature of the poorest, although a declaration of family income is necessary to prove eligibility, there is no requirement for documental proof

MDS audits BFP's payroll using other administrative databases, such as those with data on formal workers, car owners and pensions. An additional factor that helps keep the targeting error low is social control, both among community members and by Municipal Councils composed by civil society to control local government.

. Accuracy comes from the knowledge of local officials regarding the poverty areas in their territories, and is calibrated using MDS's statistical estimates.

Of all policies advanced in Fome Zero's scope, the BFP has become a main pillar in terms of budget, extension, impact and public opinion. It is based on simple and clear rules, endowed with a family approach and it promotes universal policies of health and education through conditionality enforcement. For families to qualify for benefit, their children must have an 85% school attendance rate and be up-to-date with the vaccination schedule defined by the Ministry of Health, while pregnant women are required to adhere to a prenatal schedule.

Poverty and extreme poverty are defined by per capita family income. Of course poverty has many faces beyond just income insufficiency (Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi, 2008) but this factor has been chosen by the BFP as its sole eligibility criteria due to the fact that it is very easy to manage, it also favours the practice of social accountability. By operating in conjunction with the Unique Registry and universal policies, BFP helped government put aside the dichotomy between focused versus universal action. As both the Unique Registry and the BFP now function on a massive scale - they include 72 million registered individuals, one third of the Brazilian population, and 50 million beneficiaries - they are in a strong position to provide valuable information to other projects, such as rural electrification, basic sanitation and water supply (Table 1). Indeed, during the first stages of the implementation of massive anti poverty policies, it was easier to find poor families waiting for social inclusion. In 2011, 16 million are still excluded from Brazil's social, political and economical rights. While major efforts have not yet been enough to reach all of these people, it looks like the answer lies in targeting action towards specific populations, in terms of territories or cultural belonging, such as quilombolas, Indians, river side inhabitants, forest extractivists, etc. The Single Registry Department has built different strategies to reach these specific populations, and action was taken according to social movement demands. This approach has effectively reached many poverty spots that local authorities have not yet targeted.

Social assistance, a constitutional right, has now become institutionally structured through a federative treaty and specific legislation. Now, many Social Assistance Reference Centres (CRAS) have been established in areas of poverty through the work of the MDS, which aids infrastructure construction, together with municipalities, which provide human resources. They provide territoriality to a variety of social policies. Information technology is fundamental for the management of these decentralized actions. In 2010, MDS was monitoring more than 6,700 CRAS (Brasil, 2010).

Supporting Family agriculture

On the supply side of food security policy, family agriculture has been growing in importance. Although 70% of the food consumed by Brazilians comes from family agriculture, the agribusiness had received preferential attention due to its importance in terms of the country's exports. However, since the 1990s a number of policies have started to be directed to small-scale agriculture. For example, a rural credit programme was created

The National Programme for the Strengthening of Family Agriculture (PRONAF), and the Declaration of Eligibility to PRONAF (DAP) a registry system that reaches 3.2 million agricultural families. Registration is done at the local level by rural unions or technical assistance institutions. Following registration, a family can access PRONAF credit at any bank or credit cooperative, once credit rules are approved by the National Monetary Council, a top financial authority.

, setting in motion the registration of small farmers.

In 2006, specific legislation that defined family agriculture

Family Agriculture is defined by a maximum property size, where no more than two employees are hired, with the main income source deriving from agricultural activity and the farm is managed by family members.

was adopted, which created a better environment for the targeting of policies for this type of family business. An agriculture census in the same year identified 4.3 million family farms, which although occupied less than 25% of the total area of rural properties, they were responsible for 74.4% of agricultural employment (França, Del Grossi, Marques, 2009).

Family agriculture became central to rural development strategies with policies of access to land, credit, insurance, technical assistance and commercialization. In 2009, 1.4 million small farmers accessed PRONAF credit (see footnote 6), which amounted to a total of US$7 billion in credit operations (Brasil, 2010). Technical assistance for small crops was also improved and expanded. As usual, actions were dispersed among different ministries, so a programme was created in 2008 to link such efforts, which gave a territorial approach to government intervention on poor rural areas by defining 120 territories (made up of municipalities) where policies of all kinds should be present.

Commercialization, a long-standing problem for small farmers, especially in poor regions, was addressed by these measures. Agricultural businesses could now become financially viable through policies of public purchase from family farms, and through an increase of the food expenditures of poor families. At least 30% of the school meal budget now had to be spent on produce from family farms. Another important programme in this respect is the 2003 Food Acquisition Programme, which purchases as much as R$8,000 a year from each family. In 2011, it bought 476 million tons of food, worth US$300 million, from 162,242 farms and donated to 29,800 social institutions (PAA DATA, 2012) such as schools, popular restaurants, social assistance centres, restaurants for people on low-incomes or simply directly to families. Products are also used to form public food stocks that function as price regulators and as emergency stocks in the case of climate disasters, the most common being drought and flood. At present the programme is being adapted in order to expand its figures to reach an annual budget of around US$1 billion.

Monitoring results and upcoming challenges

The MDS was created alongside the Secretariat for Evaluation and Information Management, which is responsible for the evaluation and monitoring of this new generation of well-institutionalized and decentralized social policies. It works in two ways: diagnosis and policy monitoring, carried out through networks with public statistical and research institutions; and policy evaluation by external institutions.

As statistical and administrative social databases have traditionally been based on the formal sector, and poverty and hunger are predominant among families living in informal situations, the management of policies that focus on the poor demanded a better understanding of the phenomena. By networking with public statistical and research institutions, MDS was able to open a methodological debate and advocated the inclusion of supplementary fields into traditional household surveys and in the all-embracing Brazilian Census. Through this effort the country is making advances in "the establishment of a broad statistical system that captures as many of the relevant dimensions as possible" (Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi, 2008).

As mentioned above, the Fome Zero strategy is linked with a broader development strategy based on internal market stimulus and employment generation. Prior to the subprime financial crisis, in 2008 unemployment had dropped to 7.8% (Ipeadata, 2012). This is important for a better appreciation of Brazil's recent social achievements. The total number of formal workers increased by 15 million between 2003 and 2010 (Barbosa et al., 2010), during the same period minimum wage had a real value increase of 66%. Indeed, job market dynamic was responsible for 75% of the rise in household income during the first decade of the millennium (IPEA, 2012), which is a key element of poverty reduction. Inequality was also impacted, the Gini index dropping from 0.594 in 2001 to 0.527 in 2011. Income source decomposition methods indicate the relative impact of each source on Gini reduction: employment and real wage raises, 58%; pensions, 19%; and BFP, 13% (IPEA, 2012).

Nevertheless, Brazil's job market remains a very unstable source of income for families in poverty. While OECD workers are hired for an average of 126 months, compared to an average for Brazilian formal workers of 62 months, those workers included in the Unified Registry stay hired for only 22 months - almost one third of the national average - and BFP beneficiary families on average keep their formal jobs for less than a year (Figure 3).

This reality points to the necessity of a new dynamic of social inclusion through productive means. As seen, a linked set of productive inclusion policies targeted to rural areas based on family agriculture is already in existence. But as yet no policy has emerged as a consistent solution for the stimulation of low-income businesses in urban and forest areas that is applicable on a massive scale. From the experiences gained so far, new policies should be targeted towards: (i) solidarity economy cooperatives; (ii) small business formalization; and (iii) the creation of new credit lines. Furthermore, technical assistance is still poorly adapted for small businesses. Taking these factors into consideration, in 2011 the new government of Dilma Roussef established the Brazil without Misery Plan (Plano Brasil sem Miséria). It was identified that Brazil still had 16 million people living in extreme poverty and that further efforts were necessary to change their situation. The Brazil without Misery Plan is based on existing policies and works on the improvement of policies through three lines of approach: income guarantee, access to public services and productive inclusion.

As seen, poor families in urban and rural areas face different deprivations that demand specific strategies from public policies. In the following section it is shown that Brazil faces not only urban and rural social challenges, but in the northern region of the country, the rainforest also poses a great challenge to social policies.

Poverty and environment

Policies that address poverty and promote social development in Brazil have always faced an additional challenge which is quite particular in relation to the majority of other countries: besides the usual dichotomy of rural versus urban, Brazil's forests represent a third dimension which demands specific consideration in national strategies. The debate on the economic use of natural resources, particularly from forests, is frequently associated with the debate on the policies and pathways to national development. The so-called Amazônia Legal, in Brazil's northern region, represents nearly 60% of Brazilian territory, provides home to 13% of the country's population, and contains the planet's largest reservoir of biodiversity and water. During the 1970s, the prevailing trend here was that of slash-and-burn clearance to create traditional rural and urban settlements. As result, two thirds of the population in the Amazon region live in urban areas, and about six million live in forest or rural areas.

At present, the rainforest is the ultimate frontier to social information and policy management. Social data on forest resident families remains absent, even though the Household Survey carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) has been in existence for some time. While these people may be few compared to the entire Brazilian population, together with the rainforest itself they are the starting point for many solutions that the country must create to meet the necessary social and environmental sustainable development objectives of this century. In addition, forest populations are a major source of focalization error faced both by policies that fight poverty and universal ones. There is no doubt that the scattered nature of traditional settlements, inland and along the river margins, is a barrier to the implementation of social policies.

The main trajectory of rainforest resource production has been centred on mining and deforestation, which is largely illegal, upon which land agriculture and cattle ranching follow. President Lula's Minister of Environment encapsulated the nature of the problem, saying that while it is easy to dismantle an illegal sawmill in a day, it is not possible to create quality jobs for all sawmill workers at the same pace. Another important aspect should be brought to light here: that of the high amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from forest burning

Deforestation is the major source of Brazilian GHG emissions.

. Although the Brazilian government's efforts to reduce emissions have produced impressive results, this fact alone has not been able to break the prevailing economic logic of that region.

As highlighted earlier, the dominant sociotechnical regime in the Amazon is neither environmentally nor socially sustainable. As was the case for poverty and hunger two decades ago, sustainable development has been emerging as a consensual political goal in Brazil's democracy over the last ten years. Rainforest preservation is essential for both the survival of the population and also to ensure that the rich spectrum of natural products offered by the region is not lost but sustainably used. It is now clear to all that the promotion of the sustainable use of biodiversity is key for long-term sustainable development. When the aggregate value generated by the forest "standing up" becomes higher than that of the deforestation ("forest down") activities, people will be more ready to engage in sustainable activities.

Federal government social grants (such as those from the BFP and, more recently, Forest Grant

Forest Grant (Bolsa Floresta in Portuguese), is a cash transfer programme aimed at seasonal sustainable activities.

) have been an important social policy for ensuring a minimum income for local populations within the Amazon region. Nevertheless, much more is needed to truly encourage sustainable development: it is of pivotal importance to promote natural resource-based productive chains that combine traditional knowledge of the uses of biodiversity along with science, technology and innovation. Certain products, such as natural cosmetics, foods, beverages and phytotherapeutics (herbal medicines) are already putting this into practice. Some large and medium-size enterprises, such as Natura and Beraca Sabará

Natura is the largest cosmetic company in Brazil. Baraca Saba is the major organic supplier for cosmetics enterprises in the country and is a pioneer in organizing local communities to extract biodiversity products by traditional processes.

, have heavily invested in the sustainable development area, while at the same time they have worked with the local extractivist communities.

However, the prevailing economic activity in relation to forest resources remains based on the slash-and-burn model for providing valuable wood and useful land for agriculture and cattle ranching. Such extractivism, although recognized as an important social movement for the region, is faced with its own limitations in terms of absorbing a large proportion of the local working population without transforming its traditional techniques. This issue has become a major challenge to the development of the Amazon region and to the aim to improve extractivism through science and technology.


Social policies have developed in Brazil since the 1930s. At the beginning they focused on the formal urban worker, but following re-democratization in the 1980s, the problems of poverty and hunger gained political relevance for public policies. To plan and calibrate the targeting and formatting of policies, the Brazilian authorities used consolidated statistical tools. However, because the existing social databases and surveys had not been designed to capture specific information on poverty, new tools had to be created for this purpose.

These tools were not only of an informational nature. Brasilia has a well-established set of institutions at its command: three big public banks and a public investment bank; a federal universities network; statistical institutions; consolidated worker legislation; and effective external control. Politically, constitutional rights provide key parameters to social results, while more specific legislation is important to structure policies so that they can be maintained when there is a change in the ruling political party. Clear rules are fundamental for the popular acceptance of programmes and for social accountability. Social movements also play a political role by pressing for specific groups to be given access to social policies.

A new social security system has arisen in Brazil through the conjunction of policies based on universal social rights and those focused on the problems of poverty and hunger. This social security system is linked to a broader development strategy based on Brazil's huge internal market. Brazil's social policies have many successful strategic features: the merging and strengthening of social databases to enhance the understanding of poverty in its different social environments; the decentralizing of operations to cut costs and improve targeting quality; assigning well-defined roles and responsibilities which favour accountability; implementing clear and simple rules that favour social control; the targeting of cash transfer and other policies towards the poor to complement universal policies; the use of food acquisition and institutional markets to improve rural income and local circuits of wealth; the use of employment and minimum wage increase in the fight against poverty; applying a territorial focus, which favours policy intersectoriality; the specific targeting of populations to address targeting errors; the monitoring and evaluation of policies as a guide; and finally the acceptance that trial and error is inevitable and political will is obligatory. In spite of the many successes, Brazil's social policies still face a great challenge if extreme poverty and hunger is to be eradicated. During the last decade, social policies became synergic with the country's broad development strategy by stimulating economically stagnated areas with an influx of income - through cash transfers or family agriculture incentives - and an expansion of social services and infrastructure. This dynamic of income generation led the country to acquire economic and social momentum through the expansion of low and medium-income household consumption. To maintain this momentum, the challenge now turns to the supply side of the economy, and must be met through low and middle-income entrepreneurship. Options are already evident for rural areas, such as the expansion of productive inclusion policies, while effective alternatives are required for urban and forest area production.

Who benefits from the Bolsa Familia Programme?

The Bolsa Familia programme has not only renewed the approach to social policy in Brazil, it has enabled the implementation of very precise statistical tools for targeting poor families on a territorial basis.
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Addressing poverty and the informal sector

The Bolsa Familia programme aims to fight against extreme poverty in Brazil and to assist people that work in the informal sector. The increasing number of beneficiary families corresponds to a reduction in the number of people living on less than $2 a day or working in the informal sector.
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Structural fragility of Brazilian workers

The Brazilian labour market offers few stable jobs, which maintains poverty and makes the Bolsa Familia programme particularly crucial for many families.
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