Brazilian cities under the microscope

Downtown Veranópolis, in the Southern Rio Grande do Sul state

People don’t live in countries or states – they live in cities. Ultimately, it’s the local government, infrastructure and cultural services that define one’s quality of life. And quality of life in Brazilian cities is changing quickly, according to a study just released by IBGE (the main national statistics bureau). For the first time in ten years, IBGE raised information from 5,565 local governments to draw the profile the country’s municipalities.

Overall, they seem to be offering more sports and cultural opportunities, but they still have to improve their policies concerning the environment, minorities and human rights.

The report’s main conclusions:

  • Bookstores can be found in only 28% of Brazilian cities (it was 35.5% in 1999). Apparently, book sales remain similar, because readers prefer to acquire them through the internet or in supermarkets. Also, the number of video rental stores is getting smaller, after many years of growth. Today, they can be found in almost 70% of Brazilian cities, but they are losing their costumers to cable TV and the internet.

  • On the other hand, the number of public libraries, theaters, movie theaters and museums  is growing. Today, 93.2% of cities have at least one library, 21.1% have theaters, 9.1% have moving theaters and 23.3% have museums. Most of the improvement happened in the poorer areas of the country that had very little access to cultural services. In 1999, 21.7% of the cities had none of these services or only one. In 2009, this statistic was reduced to 5.5%.
  • Also, the number of universities and other higher education units is growing. They were present in 19.6% of the cities in 2001 and in 38.3% now.
  • Social clubs (meaning, private leisure areas where the upper class associates enjoy pools, tennis courts and soccer fields) are getting rarer. They were found in 70.4% of the cities one decade ago, and now they exist in only 61.4% of the cities.
  • Sport stadiums or public gyms are found in 86.7% of the municipalities (it was only 65% ten years ago) – and this percentage should grow even more thanks to the World Cup and the Olympic Games that Brazil will host.
  • Less than 10% of the mayors are women. Nevertheless, they are the majority in the Northeast (51.2% of the mayors). Almost half of the mayors of both genders went to college and only 6.3% didn’t conclude the basic education. Almost 42% of the mayors had been reelected.
  • Over 5.7 million people are employed by local governments.
  • Only 7.1% of the cities have a delegacia da mulher (a police station specialized in crimes against women). One in every four cities has some sort of structure to investigate human rights violations. Only 126 cities have specific policies concerning lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. Almost all municipalities have conselhos tutelares (local agencies responsible for the well being of children and teens) and 290 cities accepted the presence of Romany (gypsy) people camping sites in their territories. Also, 48% of the cities informed that they have public schools prepared to educate students with disabilities. Finally, almost 60% of the cities have programs for senior citizens.
  • Around 60% of the city governments have a webpage and 87.6% of the cities have digital inclusion programs.
  • 56.1% of Brazilian municipalities offer fiscal incentives to attract new businesses.
  • More than half of the Brazilian cities have an environmental affairs council and 94% have a sports secretary. On the other hand, less than 10% have a secretary exclusively in charge  of cultural affairs.
  • More than half of the cities have alternative taxis, meaning, vans and motorcycles that offer taxi services.

For more details (in Portuguese), click here and  here.

3 thoughts on “Brazilian cities under the microscope”

  1. Are the libraries well-furbished or are they simply there? I have decided to see Brasil in the near future and I want to know other than Rio de Janeiro, Salvador da Bahia and São Paulo, what other cities are good to visit.


  2. Khalia, I am pretty sure the quality of the libraries varies tremendously. First, remember that the editorial market is infinitely smaller in Brazil, if compared to the US or Europe. So, there are less books to chose, anyway. Second, I believe most libraries have small budgets (I doubt this is a high priority for city governments). Third, I think the country has a very little number of libraries per capita – even if IBGE point out that almost all cities have at least one library.
    On the other hand, my own experience with Brazilian libraries wasn’t that bad. Growing up, I was a library rat and I remember doing all sorts of literacy activities and finding cool stuff in children’s libraries.
    Enjoy your trip and hope to see you more around here.

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