At least 53 percent of Brazil’s population – 104 million Brazilians – are now part of the nation’s middle class, compared to just 38 percent ten years ago, said an official study by the government on Thursday.
The document, produced by the Presidency’s Department of Strategic Affairs, said that at least 35 million people had emerged from poverty over the time period, while nearly 80 per cent of the new members of the expanding middle class were of African ancestry.
"If Brazil's middle class formed a country, it would be the 12th largest, behind Mexico," said Strategic Affairs Secretary Wellington Moreira Franco to Folha De S. Paulo.
"There are several adversities in the group, which is why one of our goals is to understand the class to develop specific public, economic and social policies,” he added.
Related: Brazil Economy
According to the EFE news agency, the benchmark for middle class status was a monthly income of between 291-1,019 reais ($145-$510). The report added that if the current trend continues, the Brazilian middle class would have grown to 57 percent of the population by 2022.
"The expansion of the middle class resulted from a process of (economic) growth combined with a reduction of inequality," the study found. “"With this combination, the shrinking of the lower class was more intense than the expansion of the upper class."
The Department of Strategic Affairs credited past social programs implemented by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and his successor Dilma Rousseff, as the main reasons behind the growth.
The Brazilian upper class is now comprised of 40 million people, or 20 percent of the population, while the lower class encompasses 55 million people – 28 percent of the total.
The middle class was divided into three subgroups: low-middle class (per capita income between R$ 291 and R$ 441), middle-middle class (from R$ R$ 441 to R$ 641 per person) and upper-middle class (from R$ 641 to R$ 1,019).
Strategic Affairs Secretary Wellington Moreira Franco said that the growth of the middle class was better enabling Latin America’s largest economy to endure the global slowdown.
"Brazil created around 18 million new jobs in the last decade. That gain in employment and the government policy of boosting the annual minimum wage by more than the inflation rate have contributed to the growth of consumption," he said.