Describe how and why the fertility rate in Brazil is changing Brazil, along with Russia, India and China (known collectively as the BRIC countries) is industrialising rapidly and going through dramatic demographic change. Its rate of growth has far exceeded that of current MEDCs, experiencing in 25 years the kind of change that would be expected in 100 years. The changes range from the economy, the industry and agriculture to the population and trends associated with it.
As of 2011 the fertility rate in Brazil is a mere 1. 83, far lower than the other BRIC countries. For example the fertility rate of India is currently 2. 62. Brazil’s story is abnormal as its fertility rate is below the replacement rate (2. 1), especially when considering that much of the working population is still involved in agriculture and industry. The reasons for the sharp decline in fertility are similar to those associated with development, albeit Brazil has experienced these over a much shorter period of time.
Education has improved drastically in the past 50 years in brazil; state-funded education is now compulsory for children aged 6-14 with most children continuing their studies beyond this. By the 1980s education reached a level of equality for boys and girls, but perhaps surprisingly females on average continued their studies for 1. 3 years longer than males (as of 2000). This shows that women are much more career driven than they used to be in the 1960s, when women were a small part of the total workforce.
As of 2000 this has completely turned on its head, with women making up 54% of the working population. In the past if a woman did have a job it tended to be low-responsibility with mediocre career prospects and pay, but now many women occupy important roles in society and earn large salaries. With women now working more they have less desire to start a family. This means that they put off marriage until a lot later in life, meaning that when they do settle down they have less time to have children.
Television has played a surprisingly large role in this change, and has a large influence on the lives of many Brazilians. ‘Novelas’ (soap operas) are extremely popular and have altered the way many people live. The people in these novelas always have small families (3-4 people) and the children are usually well stocked with the latest gadgets such as mobile phones. It is assumed that many Brazilians aspire to live this kind of life and many will take note that this is partly down to small families. The female characters are often particularly strong-willed, successful business omen who focus on their career over their love life. President Dilma Rousseff reinforces this statement and has one child, a daughter, and has proved that women can lead extremely successful lives in Brazil. President Rousseff, along with other women’s rights campaigners, helped take down the problem of ‘machismo’ in Brazil. An example of their protection of women is separate ‘women only’ carriages on night trains to prevent rape. Advertisements on tv and bill boards promoting contraception and family planning are also omnipresent.
The incredibly high accessibility to contraception, abortions and family planning services is an incredibly significant reason for changing fertility rates in Brazil. It is surprising considering the country’s catholic beliefs which rejects all forms of contraception and birth-prevention. As a result of this abortions are still only allowed in the case of rape or threat to the mother. Despite this illegal abortions are commonplace and over-the-counter drugs that initiate termination are easy to come by. Despite being strictly illegal little is done to stop this.
Whilst abortion does remain a sensitive subject (as it does in most countries) contraception is freely available. In fact a 2011 survey showed that 85% of Brazilians were against amendments to the abortion law. Many doctor’s surgeries go so far as to give out condoms for free especially in cities and favelas where fertility is at its highest. Urbanisation in Brazil has been very rapid due to the increased industry. Many live in favelas, and much of the rest of the urban population lives in cheap high-rise apartments. These homes are small by design and having a family of more than 4 could lead to lack of space.
The favelas are so common in Brazil that a drop in fertility should be a huge relief to many. Rochina, a favela next to Rio de Janeiro, has a population of somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 although this is difficult to accurately measure. Small cars are popular, and shops sell food in serving sizes suited for 4 people. This appears to show a shift towards products being suited to small families. As families get smaller, parents have more money to spend on each child, so gadgets and expensive toys are becoming more popular, with their advertisement on television increasing too.
In the 1800s the death of a child was common so families were large to ensure that at least some survived, but nowadays this is less likely and Brazilian families are now starting to illustrate this change. The value of a child is significantly higher and families often don’t recover from the loss of an offspring. Parents are spending more on their children not only because they can now afford to, but also because they want to give the few children that they have the best shot at success. Economic and industrial development of Brazil has increased the standard of living as a whole.
Since 2000, life expectancy has jumped from 54 to 72, and infant mortality rates have nearly halved from 38 to 20/1000 live births. Sanitation improving enormously has helped, and people who move in to cities now often find clean, fresh water and sanitation facilities (e. g. clean toilets and sinks). Even favelas are improving in this case, with communal development projects becoming increasingly common. Healthcare has improved dramatically too (as shown by the shockingly sharp decline in infant mortality) and even the poor can access healthcare as basic care is free.
Brazil can be considered an anomaly; however there does appear to be a growing trend in rapid development in the LEDW. Falling fertility rates has reduced the pressure on healthcare and education allowing more money to be spent per person equalling a better overall experience and service. Female empowerment is very important too, in both the economic output of the nation and the fall in fertility rates. However Brazil must be wary of the potential pitfalls of this rapid growth – e. g. an elderly population.
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