World Bulletin/News Desk
Brazil’s Municipal Human Development Index (MHDI) – calculated through a survey of 180 different socioeconomic indicators in the country’s 5,565 municipalities – rose nearly fifty percent in the last twenty years, with increased life expectancy among the biggest factors.
The Brazil 2013 Human Development Atlas, produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), showed that the country’s MHDI soared from 0.493 (considered “very low”) in 1991 to 0.727 in 2010, an increase of 47.5 percent which puts Brazil in the “high” category for human development.
The MHDI scale runs between 0 and 1, with anything below 0.49 considered “very low”; 0.50-0.59 is “low”, 0.60-0.69 - average, 0.70-0.79 - “high”; 0.80 and above is considered “very high”.
The “Brazil Atlas”, made in partnership with Brazil’s Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) and the Fundação João Pinheiro, used data collated in three censuses conducted in Brazil by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) in 1991, 2000 and 2010.
Among the 180 socioeconomic indicators cover three constituent areas: longevity – the opportunity to lead a long, health life; access to education; and income that allows a person to meets their basic needs.
In the 2013 Atlas, Brazil scored 0.816 (very high) on longevity, 0.739 (high) on income and 0.637 (average) on education; this year’s “education” criterion changed slightly to give greater weight to attendance.
Since the last Atlas, 85 percent of municipalities have been lifted out of the “very low” human development score, leaving only 32, or 0.57 percent, now scoring in this lowest bracket, and 74 percent scored either “high” or “average”. In 1991 no city scored “high” and only 0.8 percent were considered “average”.
It was the dramatic improvement to longevity and income that Brazil has witnessed in the latest two decades that have boosted the MHDI into the ranks of other “high” countries, such as Mexico and Turkey.
“The picture of Brazil was a very unequal one. There has been a reduction; however, the country has an “Amazonian”, gigantic inequality, which is decreasing. Brazil was one of the most unequal countries in the world, and still is, but progress has been made. We can expect a better future,” IPEA chairman and acting Secretary of Strategic Affairs Marcelo Neri.
However, education was still shown to be a major issue and its score meant the improvement was not greater.
Brazil’s biggest city, São Paulo attained a mark of 0.805 (very high); the capital city, Brasília, scored 0.824 (very high), but the tourist hotspot of Rio de Janeiro just missed out on the top bracket, scoring 0.799 (high).
Brazilians living longer
Brazil’s rocketing up the human development index scale was facilitated in large part by improvements to “longevity”, which grew 23.2 percent between 1991 and 2010, with life expectancy increasing by 9.2 years from 64.7 years to 73.9 years.
The 2010 longevity MHDI of 0.817 is considered “very high” and the increase has been attributed to a substantial reduction in child mortality rates.
Four municipalities in the southern state of Santa Catarina – Balneário Camboriú, Blumenau, Brusque and Rio do Sul – shared Brazil’s longest life expectancy of 78.6 years.
The Brazilians expected to live for the shortest amount of time were those in the northeastern municipalities of Cacimbas in Paraíba state and Roteiro, Alagoas, which posted life expectancies of 65.3 years – 8.6 years shorter than the average.
The data showed a 13.3-year difference between the longest- and shortest-living municipalities.
Jorge Chediek, the UNDP’s Resident Representative in Brazil, said the country had achieved “extraordinary progress” in reducing inequality and improving human development, adding that: “The report demonstrates that, through decisive actions and strong commitment to public policies, historic inequalities can be addressed in a short period of time.”
2,000% difference in average earnings
Brazil’s income MHDI rose 14.2 percent between 1991 and 2010 to achieve a “high” 0.739.
However, ninety percent of municipalities still score “low” or “average” and the divide between a more prosperous south-southeast and poorer north/northeast is made even more apparent by the study’s income results:
São Caetano do Sul, in the southeastern state of São Paulo, topped the index with an average monthly per-capita income of 2,043 reais (about 901.50 USD). The lowest-earning municipality was Marajá do Sena, in the northeastern state of Maranhão, where the figure is just 96.25 reais (around 42.50 USD).
This means the highest average wage is over 2,000% - or twenty times - higher than the lowest.
However, the country’s biggest improvements in income were witnessed in the least-developed municipalities of the country’s poor north and northeast regions.
The MHDI relating to education grew by over 129 percent from 0.278 in 1991 to 0.637 in 2010, which data showed was driven by a major increase in school attendance, something often credited to the government’s key family program, the Bolsa Família.
The program gives families an allowance in exchange for requiring children attend school and medical clinics, including for key vaccinations.
This low score is widely seen as the reason why Brazil’s overall score has not increased more, given the country is now the seventh richest in the world.
Presenting the ‘Atlas’, the UNDP’s Daniela Gomes Pinto outlined what was needed to improve the level of education in Brazil: “The challenge of getting children into schools has been overcome. Now the challenge is keeping children in school and completing the school “cycles” (terms) at the right age.”
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