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Understanding Issues in Recife

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Understanding Issues in Recife

Happy Child International has been supporting vulnerable children, young people, and families in Recife, North East Brazil since 1993. Recife is home to some of the poorest and most marginalised people in Brazil. Happy Child is currently adopting a community-based preventative approach focusing on the issues of education and opportunities, protection from violence, and family care.

Education and Opportunities

Across Brazil, millions of children do not have access to sufficient education. The problem is so severe that in 2018 the World Bank estimated that it would take more than 260 years for Brazil to reach the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average proficiency in reading.

These issues are concentrated in the poorest parts of Brazil in its North and North East regions. Communities in these areas do not have access to adequate education and schools lack basic infrastructure. As a city in Brazil’s North East, Recife is characterised by poor standards of primary and secondary education and insufficient access to early childhood education. Whilst local government projects are in place to improve education for Recife’s poorest households, many are at risk of leaving school without adequate education.

Upon graduating from school, young people are faced with further difficulties in finding work and earning a salary. It has been estimated that 26.91% of young people aged between 15 and 24 across Brazil were unemployed in 2020. The Coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the increasing rates of unemployment across the country with the Brazilian Institute of Statistics and Geography (IBGE) reporting that 13.5 million people were unemployed in September 2020, the highest level of unemployment on record since the Institute began recording data.


Recife is characterised by high levels of violence, crime, and drug trafficking. Although the city has seen a 35% reduction in homicides between 2017 and 2019, researchers have ranked violence as being the main concern about living in Recife. Violent deaths are concentrated in socially and economically deprived neighbourhoods and the victims are mostly young men. Rates were once so high that in 2005 Recife was ranked the Brazilian city with the highest rate of killings for young men.

Brazilian researchers have emphasised that violence also takes place in homes in Recife away from the public eye. The prevalence of physical violence in the city means that courts often overlook other issues such as property-rights violations which impact many women fleeing from domestic violence.

Women in Recife and across Brazil are also faced with employment and workplace discrimination. In 2018, women in Brazil earned 20.5% less than men on average. Another large organisation estimates that the country’s pay gap between men and women will not be closed until 2047. Wage inequality is also a racialised issue in Brazil where, according to similar predictions, Black Brazilians will not earn the same as their white counterparts until 2089.

See an example of what we are doing at Happy Child. Watch Sayonara’s video below

Family Care

Whilst levels of poverty (according to World Bank figures living on less than £4.05 day) and extreme poverty (living on less than £1.40 a day) has decreased in Brazil in recent years, there has been a growth in the level of age inequality. This has meant that children and young people have remained the most vulnerable to poverty. Statistics from the Brazilian Institute of Statistics and Geography (IBGE) found that between 2004 and 2015, whilst rates of poverty and extreme poverty decreased across all age groups, they were consistently highest among children aged 0 to 14.

Areas such as Recife in the North and North East of the country are home to a large proportion of those living in poverty. Sonia Rocha, a researcher at the Institute of Labour and Society Studies (IETS), published an article in 2019 stating that the North East held 28% of Brazil’s population, but 43% of its poor. This regional inequality is evident in Recife, which has one of Brazil’s highest poverty levels.

Since 2003, the Brazilian government have been offering monthly cash transfers to families living below the poverty line. Payments are made upon the condition that children in the family attend school. The programme, called Bolsa Família, is incredibly valuable to those who are struggling, but the persistence of age inequality in poverty rates across Brazil suggests that more needs to be done to protect children and young people. With 40% of Brazil’s extremely poor being 14 years or under, there is an urgent need for services that directly help vulnerable young people.

Training programmes for young people offer an important step in overcoming poverty. These programmes open the job market up to young people and equip them with transferable skills and knowledge, enabling them to find work, support their families, and avoid the alternatives of crime and violence. Such programmes are in high demand. In 2017 only 8% of students in Brazil obtained a vocational qualification after upper secondary education and because such programmes are often selective, disadvantaged students are unlikely to get a place. Happy Child is currently supporting the Mentoring and Skills Training Programme run by Instituto Solidare, a Brazilian charity that operates in Recife. The project offers professional and personal development to vulnerable young people aged between 16 and 19 years old.

You can respond to the issues mentioned in the article in the following ways:

· Please pray for the work we are doing in Recife, North East Brazil.

· Help us to continue working with our partners by donating monthly to Happy Child International today by clicking on this link to donate:

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