Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Young and at risk

The latest statistics from IBGE show that rate of homicides has more than doubled between 1980 and 2000, from 11.7 to 27 per 1000. The worst affected states are Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo and Sao Paulo in that order.

Men make up the largest proportion of these deaths. But it is young men between the ages of 15 and 24 who are at greatest risk, usually being dispatched by means of guns.

Meanwhile, even though illiteracy fell slightly during the 1990s, 16.5% of Brazilian families have a child aged between 5 and 17 working. In total that's 5.4 million children of school age, most of whom live in the North East. This trend may well be due in part to the 14% fall in average working wages between 1996 and 2002.

With children foregoing their education to support their families, the pressure is on them to make good money. And much of the IBGE's observation of the rising murder rate may be due in part to these young men without education and few opportunities being lured into the risky world of drug trafficking and crime.

These figures, which give an early social analysis of the neo-liberal experiment which swept Brazil and South America during the 1980s and 1990s, offer a damning verdict if true. But the problem is going to reach breaking point in the next decade or so if nothing is done to properly tackle this problem.

What do you think? Let me know.

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