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The construction of a large mass consumer market in Brazil not only provided access to consumer goods for millions of Brazilians but helped domestic production became less dependent on the vicissitudes of the world economy. IBGE data show that the volume of retail sales doubled in the last ten years. This segment still generates more than 8.5 million formal jobs, according to data from the Ministry of Labor.
Millions of Brazilians who entered the formal job market in the last decade and receive up to three minimum monthly wages form the new lower middle class, which is the majority of this new mass market. They are construction workers, shop assistants, drivers, porters, manicures, domestic workers, motorcycle couriers. They are the new Brazilian consumers. In the words of professor at the Institute of Economics of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, João Sicsú, author of Ten years that shook the Brazil - And the Future? (Ed. Geração) they are "people who migrated to the Southeast by bus and now go back to the Northeast to visit their relatives by airplane."
In 2003, 45.2% of Brazilian population supported the consumer market, represented by the lower middle, higher middle and high-income classes. The working class and lower class had a little purchasing power. Beginning in 2011, the percentage of the population that participated in the consumer market increased to 67.8% of the population.
What allowed Brazil to confront the international crisis of 2008/2009 was this significant increase in domestic consumption market. This new lower middle class, which grew by 42,240,000 new members between 2003 and 2012, is the big driver of domestic consumption in Brazil, a robust channel for the country’s new economic development. These new consumers have generated purchases, production, investments and millions of jobs.
The days when going to an airport to board a plane was a privilege for only a third of Brazilians are now in the past. Traveling for a visit relatives who live far away now is a right and a routine for most of the population. There has never been so much travelling and shopping in Brazil. A survey conducted by the Data Popular Institute indicates the new class C is responsible for 78% of supermarket sales, 60% of beauty salon revenues and 70% of purchases by credit card.
The comfort and facilities provided by a new refrigerator, stove or a microwave oven are also now available for most Brazilians. Appliances have become part of people’s lives, and symbolize the improvement in the quality of life since 2003. According to PNAD/ IBGE, 98.7% of surveyed permanent private households in 2012 had stoves. In the Southeast, South and Midwest Regions, the percentage of those who had this appliance well exceeded 99%.
In the North and Northeast regions these ratios were, respectively, 97.3% and 97.5%. The survey confirmed the advancement in possession of some durable goods from 2011 to 2012, such as a refrigerator (from 95.8% to 96.7%); washing machine (from 51.0% to 55.1%) and television set (96.9% to 97.2%). From 2008, research began to investigate the existence of the DVD player in the home and, in 2012, it was present in 76.0% of the households surveyed, an increase of 0.5 percentage point compared to 2011.
Some goods, which in the past has meant a distinction of class — such as computers with Internet access and cell phones —are today becoming more affordable.
In 2012, approximately 83 million people aged 10 or older reported having accessed the Internet in the country in the past three months, according to the National Research by Household Sample (PNAD 2012), compared with 77.7 million in the previous year, marking an increase of 6.8% (5.3 million new Internet users) within one year.
In 2012, 122.7 million people age 10 or older in the country owned a mobile phone for personal use. This number increased by 6.3% compared to 2011, equivalent to 7.2 million new users. In 2011, the estimate of the user population was 115.4 million people. The North and Northeast Regions remained the only ones where less than 70% of the population aged 10 or older possessed cell phones, although they presented the highest increases in the proportion of users (4.1 percentage points).
With rising household incomes, young people not only have more time to study, to prepare to enter the labor market at a later moment, but are in a better position to do so. With endless possibilities, the university degree became a possible dream, according to a survey from the Data Popular institute; after all, 68% of youths in the lower middle class studied more than their parents. With scholarships from the University for All Program, ProUni, the Fies financing facility and the quota system, the number of enrollments in higher education doubled, also multiplying the prospect of a new generation of skilled workers in the labor market capable of sustainable growth.