Community Social Infrastructure
With a relatively young population and other development priorities, accommodating aging has not yet become a focus of the Brazilian government. Starting in the 1980s, Brazil put in place a set of legal safeguards to protect the rights of older adults as part of its broader effort to pursue social inclusiveness, but in practice policy implementation has fallen short in areas such as transportation and housing accessibility. However, as the Brazilian population begins to age, and independence increases, support for “active aging” is gaining ground, exhibited by efforts of some local governments, like the state of São Paulo, as well as leading NGOs, to promote age-friendly cities.
“Brazil has excellent legal instruments in relation to its older population, but the law does not function as it should have. Good policies exist, but in practice the implementation is not sufficient.”
– Maria Angelica Sanchez, former President of the Gerontology Department at the Brazilian Society for Geriatrics and Gerontology
The State of São Paulo’s Initiative on Age-Friendly Cities and Communities
The state of São Paulo launched the Elder-Friendly Cities Seal in 2012 – 637 cities have already committed to the program. In order to receive full recognition as age-friendly, city governments must create a City Council for the Elderly, complete policy assessments, register all low-income older adults in the public services system and at community health centers, and take any other actions deemed appropriate by the individual city. The program is a joint effort of different state ministries that has financial backing from the State Fund for the Elderly, which receives funds from the state of São Paulo, the federal government, and city governments, as well as donations and fines collected for elder abuse. This fund, as of 2017, has more than BRL 10 million (approximately USD 3 million).
Brazil is projected to start to exit the “demographic bonus” around 2020, when the ratio of the number of people ages 0-14 and 65 and above to the number of people ages 15-64 hits an inflection point.
Source: UN Population Division
Ratio of Population Ages 0–14 and 65 or Older per 100 Population Ages 15–64
Tapping productive opportunity among the older population is not a priority for the Brazilian government, which has focused on addressing immediate development issues, such as poverty, inequality, and credit booms. Social welfare programs have used direct cash payments as the primary tool to support vulnerable groups, creating a disincentive for labor force participation. Looking ahead, the government has pledged to undertake potential reform as part of its efforts to pursue long-term fiscal sustainability, but it has attracted widespread opposition.
The participation of people age 65 and older in the labor force fell by nearly two-thirds in Brazil, from 60 percent in the 1970s to 21 percent in 2014, mainly due to access to public pensions, social benefits, and increased payouts.
With a large working-age population, the government has done little to improve market conditions for older jobseekers. However, an increasing number of initiatives have been launched by non-governmental entities over the past few years, demonstrating a rising societal awareness of the value of older workers.
Expanding Productive Opportunity
Dotz, a company that provides benefits for customers along with the purchases they make, was inspired by the Robert de Niro movie The Intern and decided to create a technology manager position aimed at candidates over age 55 at the end of 2015. It received more than 1,500 résumés and hired three applicants. The program has been such a success, with both the new and old employees learning from one another, that the president of Dotz is considering a second round of hires.