Country Snapshot: The basic emergency income policy in Brazil

By StreetNet International
August 4, 2020
Share this

On July 16,
Maíra Vannuchi, organizer for the Americas for StreetNet International,
presented a case study of the implementation of basic emergency income policy
in Brazil in a side event organized by Global Platform for the Right to the
, during the High Level Political Forum 2020.

The event
was called “Fulfilling SDG11 & the NUA beyond the #COVID19 through the
Right to the City
” and Maíra’s presentation was included in the section about
Social protection mechanisms and securing livelihoods, particularly in the
informal economy.

Maíra focused on the case of Brazil, in which the National Congress approved an inclusive and universal policy aligned with the principles of basic universal income to tackle the consequences of COVID-19

the right-wing government of Bolsonaro proposed a benefit of R$ 200 (US$ 38.54),
reserved for those in the national register of the most vulnerable people

the pressure of social movements and trade unions was successful in changing
the policy. The Brazilian Basic Income Network (Rede Brasileira da Renda
Básica) organized a wide-raging campaign involving various segments of civil
society, which influenced Congresswomen and men with elaborate proposals of
what the guidelines should be and how the policy should work. This knowledge is
a result of years of research and thought about what a universal basic income
should be.

of informal economy workers such as StreetNet’s affiliate União Nacional de
Trabalhadoras e Trabalhadores Camelôs, Ambulantes e Feirantes do Brasil – UNICAB quickly mobilized to defend the rights of informal
traders. Through the creation of funds to be distributed to informal
traders and advocacy actions to denounce
problems in the payment of basic emergency income
, workers’ organizations were on the frontlines
to ensure no one would be left behind.

What was the policy?

National Congress approved a cash grant of R$ 600 (US$ 115) to informal
workers and R$ 1.200 (US$ 230) to single parent households led by women or men,
for a period of 3 months

The sole
criteria was to belong to a family whose monthly income per person does not
exceed half a minimum wage of R$ 522.50 (US$ 100), or whose total family income
is up to 3 (three) minimum wages R$ 3,135.00 (US$ 603).

duration of the benefit has since been extended by an additional two months.

the emergency cash-grant program, primarily targeted at informal workers, is
anticipated to reach 60 million people, which amounts to 50% more than what the
government initially expected. For context, the Brazilian population is currently
at 210 million people.

Why this is an interesting case from the point of
view of a broad and inclusive social security?

  1. The program was accessible both by
    people who were already registered
    (vulnerable people who already receive
    government aid [CadUnico, 73 million people registered] and Individual
    Micro Entrepreneurs [MEI], a category that was first implemented to
    simplify the formalization of workers in the informal economy at several levels
    through an easy and affordable online registration process, which provided
    access to inclusion in social security, retirement and tax registration with a
    fixed monthly amount of R$ 59.00 (US $ 11.30); but also by informal workers
    that were not registered in any of these databases and remained absent from
    formal employment records – as long as they filled the criteria, they could
    register on the website or via the app.
  • Accessibility to the program: there were multiples channels
    through which workers could receive the benefit. Workers registered online,
    either through a website or through a smartphone app. After completing the form
    with personal information, the system checks the eligibility of the worker and
    sends a confirmation message following that analysis. For those workers who
    could not access internet or smartphones, it is possible to request their
    registration and a federal bank agency (Caixa) or lottery agencies. A hotline
    for queries was also set up to resolve doubts about how the program works. Finally,
    the benefit was delivered through bank transfers to an existing savings account
    of the worker – the ones that were already registered in CadUnico already had
    bank accounts, but new applicants who needed one could also create a “digital
    account” at Caixa automatically through the registration system.

By June
17th, 107 million people had applied for the benefit, and 64.1 million people
were considered eligible to receive the emergency grant. In total R$ 81.3
billion (US$ 15.1 billion) were granted in disbursements.

Were there any problems?

being an inclusive and universal policy that undoubtedly had a great impact on
the lives of beneficiaries, there were several problems during its implementation.

From people
who never received the benefit
, either because their application remains
“under analysis” or because it was denied without proper justification, to accessibility
related to “digital illiteracy” and lack of access to digital
devices, and also a concerning lack of articulation with the social
assistance bodies
, which have more experience and capacity to properly
implement such a wide-raging program.

There are
still 10 million Brazilians “in processing” and 24 million were denied the
benefit – the reasons why are not transparent. Delays in receiving the benefit
and the long lines of beneficiaries at Caixa are also a problem.

Why is this policy relevant for StreetNet

International has been advocating for the
provision of basic emergency living cash grants to informal economy workers
since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic
. This kind of simplified and direct assistance
can make all the difference for informal traders who live from hand to mouth
and are currently facing restrictions that prevent them from working.
Instead of forcing informal traders to risk either infection or starvation,
basic emergency living cash grants allow them to feed themselves and their
families without exposing themselves unnecessarily to the virus
, especially
in the case of informal traders from vulnerable groups.

This kind
of support is also a recognition of the important work performed by informal
and their contribution to the economy. Although the Brazilian
policy had several problems of implementation, its inclusion of informal
economy workers is step in the right direction.


Brazilian Basic Income Network (Rede Brasileira de Renda

study:  #1 Social Protection Responses to
Covid-19  Government grants and cash
transfers to informal workers. July 2020.