Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Education in Brazil’s north-east: The missing link

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on June 1, 2011

by H.J. for The Economist – Americas View, May 27th, 2011.

As noted in last week’s print edition, Brazil’s long-impoverished north-east is catching up fast to the rest of the country. Infrastructure projects like ports and railways, as well as scores of new factories, are going up across the region. Yet no matter how much physical capital the north-east can accumulate, in the end its prosperity will depend on its human capital. And when it comes to education and training, notes Alexandre Rands of Datamétrica, a consultancy, a “crystallised gap” still yawns between the north-east and the rich south. Around one-fifth of the region’s adults are illiterate, twice the proportion in Brazil at large.

The lot of poor nordestinos (north-easterners) has certainly improved over the last two decades. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil’s president from 1995 to 2002, conquered the hyperinflation that hit their income hardest. His successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, built on Mr Cardoso’s income-transfer programmes and increased the minimum wage. Nearly six in ten of working-age nordestinos with an income earn no more than the minimum wage—more than twice the proportion in the south-east.

At one mega-construction site in the town of Salgueiro, where two branches of a railway leading to the ports are being built, the least-qualified employees earn around 600 reais ($375) a month on top of their living costs, and sleep four to a prefabricated room. Nonetheless, the rooms are air-conditioned, neat and comfortable. Nearby are shared television rooms and games rooms with pool tables and subutteo. A film is shown every night and at weekends there are religious services. (continue reading… )

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