Fila em posto do INSS - Sao Paulo, SP, 03.06.2004 - Foto: Gustavo Roth/Folha Imagem

Workers at precarious jobs getting low salaries, vulnerable and elderly people, widows, farm workers, the youth. These are the “privileged” targets of the social security reform.

By: Diego Cruz – PSTU Brazil

On the morning of the 20th of February, Bolsonaro officially submitted his proposal of social security reform to the National Congress (Brazilian national parliament). This project details a proposal that had been leaked earlier by the press, changing just a few topics, but reinforcing its objective: withdraw rights, reduce pensions and attack workers and the poor.

Willing to “sell” this reform, the government started to promote a real fake news campaign affirming that such project attacks privileges and those who get higher payments. But the truth is the opposite. It will affect mainly the poorest workers, those on the most precarious conditions, the most oppressed and exploited such as the women and black population.

The poorest are the most affected ones

The main measure at the reform establishes a minimum age of 65 years for men and 62 for women. It also ends the possibility of getting retired for time of contribution for the social security as it currently occurs (35 years for men and 30 for women). But apart from imposing a minimum age to everyone, this reform increases the minimum time of contribution for someone who achieves such age, changing the current rule from 15 to 20 years.

It is exactly the poorest workers, submitted to precarious and informal jobs, who usually retires meeting the age requirement. That happens because they basically cannot accumulate 30 or 35 years of contribution for the social security, as they do not manage to have a formal job for so long. That is why most people are getting retired by achieving the minimum age nowadays. And these are the people who will suffer the most with this reform.

There is another point where the poorest workers are affected: the reform changes the benefit cauculus. With the minimum age and 20 years of contribution, those who retire are going to start receiving only 60% of their salaries average (during the period of contribution). That means, apart from harder rules to have the right to retire, those who manage to are going to make a bit more than half of the average of their salaries. It basically means that those who retire this way – the majority of the workers -are going to have a minimum wage only (around US$ 250).

Farm workers are also heavily attacked by this project. The minimum age for this sector to get retired would be the same for men and women: 60 years old (nowadays women are allowed to retire at the age of 55). And also the minimum time of contribution would increase from 15 to 20 years.

Another important point affecting the poorest, especially women, is reducing pension for widow/widowers. Nowadays, a person receives the full pension if his/her partner dies. But if this reform is approved, the partner would get only 60% of the benefit, plus 10% for each dependent.

Another attack against workers and the poor is about a benefit called SIP Bonus (Social Integration Program – it is similar to a minimum wage paid every year for the lowest wages). Nowadays, it is paid to those who earn at most 2 minimum wages a month (around UD$ 500). The reform shall restrict it to those who earn only one minimum wage per month.

Deprived elderly people will earn less than a minimum wage

One of the most perverse policies at Bolsonaro’s reform modifies a benefit granted to deprived elderly people aging at least 65 called Benefit of Continuing Provision. There are 4.5 million people depending on this benefit to survive: a miserable minimum wage (R$ 998 or USD 250).

The welfare reform reduces its monthly value to R$ 400 (US$ 100) and only allows people older than 60 to access the benefit. The program is responsible for the maintenance of millions of elderly people and their families, especially at this moment of crisis and increasing unemployment. It is going to be turned into a “misery aid”. An elder person, proving his/her situation of misery would be able to receive a minimum wage only after aging 70.  This policy would let millions of elderly people with nothing, disposing those who have worked their whole lives in absolute misery at their most fragile moment.

Youth: future with no rights

The bill submitted by Bolsonaro to the National Congress includes, still, what they call “capitalization regime” (U.S. equivalent to 401k pension fund provided by the private sector banking and insurance corporations), which would be established for the young people starting to work now. This regime substitutes the current one, where the welfare is financed by contributions from workers and bosses and by the government (through taxes). With capitalization, the worker would be the only one contributing, compulsorily, for a financial found, and then in the future he would receive incomes for this “investment”.

This system was imposed by Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, and it was responsible for a serious social drama in which 80% of the retired people makes less than a minimum age. It is wonderful for banks and private funds that are going to manage the money from workers the way they want to, and a future of misery and poverty for the young.

This regime would be linked to the so-called “green and yellow” labor ID (carteira de trabalho in Portuguese) with no labor rights currently assured by the National Labour Laws (called CLT in Portuguese – Consolidação das Leis do Trabalho). The government says it would be “optional”, but everyone knows the choice workers have face to their bosses: accept it or get fired.

Fight Back Fake News: this reform harms the poor

Government and press have made a lot of noise about the reform draft; that it would end with special retirement for politicians such as senators and deputies. As if someone making a R$ 33,700 monthly (US$ 8,300), plus R$ 4,200 in living support, apart from a quota of R$ 45,000 per month would need his pension to survive.

The privileged – such as politicians, high posts of the armed forces and judiciary – will keep on being privileged. And the most privileged are the ones who will really benefit from this reform: bankers. The welfare reform is going to attack who earns less, those in worse conditions: deprived elderly people, widows/widowers, farm workers. Are those the “privileged ones” this reform is targeting?

Translated by: Chico