Thursday, May 22, 2014

Social Inequality in Brazil and the 2014 World Cup

From June 12 to July 13, Brazil is hosting, for the second time, the International Federation of Association Football World Cup. This 20th edition of the World Cup will take place in the capital cities of twelve states of Brazil including Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo.

Football (the game we call soccer in North America) is an extremely popular sport in Brazil and many world famous professional football players such as Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldino, and Kaka, come from this country. More than any other country, Brazil won the World Cup on five occasions: in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002.

The preparation for the World Cup is clouded by social unrest and insecurity throughout the country. About 1.4 million people, that is to say six percent of the Brazilian population, live in poverty in shantytowns called favelas. In Rio de Janeiro, the country’s second largest city, it is twenty percent of the population that live in six hundred favelas. Those people have hoped the World Cup will bring jobs and social projects into their communities but, on the contrary, government spending has been diverted into the building of stadia. Building, for instance, the World Cup stadium of the city of Brasilia cost taxpayers $900 million – the triple of the initial estimate. One could sense corruption behind this cost overrun, given the link of some politicians with the construction industry.

The feeling that only a minority of the population is benefiting from the nation’s wealth was at the origin of the social unrest.   Income and wealth disparity is quite high in Brazil. The country has the highest Gini coefficient in Latin America at .57. The Gini coefficient is a statistic summarizing the deviation of the income distribution across a country's population from a situation where everyone got equal income.