The Bolsonaro government forwarded a proposal for the social security reform to the National Congress in the second month of its term, as promised. Many analyses and disputes to legitimate the proposal are in course. Some of the central arguments presented by the government, supported by analysts and economists in line with the financial market interests, are that Brazil must pass this reform to (1) contribute to its fiscal adjustments and public expenditure control, without which the country’s economy cannot grow, (2) make social justice, correcting existing distortions in the pension system and (3) ensure the viability of social security for future generations. We hereby present some comments to defend our stance.

(1) Among other issues, the argument of the fiscal adjustment and economic growth calls attention to the so-called pension deficit. For economists committed to the interests of the market, that would be the worst obstacle for the economic progress of Brazil. Economist and UFRJ professor Denise Lobato Gentil says that argument does not find grounds when analyzed in the light of the Brazilian Federal Constitution. According to Gentil, “the government makes calculations without considering what is provided by articles 194 and 195 of the Constitution. Both of them state that the funds allocated for social security, which cover expenditures with health, welfare and pensions, come from different sources”. Furthermore, “supporters of social security are quite aware that this rhetoric has been adopted to privatize public services”. So, “the population is forced to join private pension funds instead of having access to what should be a public service”. It is a process of financialization of the public budget. Cutting benefits means pushing people towards private pension plans”.[1] For the economist, “there is no social security deficit based on the constitutional principles”, also in accordance to the Brazilian Association of Tax Auditors of the Federal Revenue of Brazil (Anfip). The final report[2] of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry conducted by the Brazilian Senate and closed in 2017 was unanimously approved and observed that “speaking simply about a pension deficit from a perspective of the present revenue and expenditure as a whole is to mitigate reality” (2017, p. 34). On the other hand, it must be highlighted that economic growth comes from multiple factors and binding the economic crisis to the social security system is playing with market interests on workers’ rights.

(2) The argument that the reform proposed by the government is an actual path for social justice is sheer fiction, a rhetorical trap. Leveling groups that are historically deprived from constitutional rights and access to basic public services with those who have always enjoyed benefits or privileges in the social security system is not a display of social equality. Quite on the contrary, a quick glance at the proposal shows that it is harsh and unfair to the poor, particularly because of the cuts in payments, the rise in the age and contribution time required and the changes to the Continuous Cash Benefit (CCB), for instance. For Eduardo Fagnani, economist and Unicamp professor, the prevision that the population entitled to the CCB will only receive its full amount after they turn 70 years-old means that “this group will have a shorter survival rate, once few of them reach that age[3]”.  The proposed social security reform is also harmful for women, as it levels their minimum age and contribution time with those of men with complete disregard for the labor scenario of Brazil, in which women are overloaded with parenting and house chores and work more hours despite earning less than men. The working class, which usually survives on minimum wage and has the unhealthiest jobs, will have their minimum age for retirement elevated to 65 years-old for men and 62 for women, plus the requirement of 40 years of contribution in order to receive the full pension – which will likely translate into a large contingent of people receiving pensions lower than the minimum wage.  In contrast with those injustices and the sacrifice of the poorer and weaker, the government still chooses to avoid the discussion about public expenditure in terms of costs with public debt interests and with tax waives for the rich, not to mention default and debts that are not collected. Substantial amounts are either transferred or not collected, which therefore worsens income concentration and social inequality in Brazil.

(3) As for the third argument, defending social security for future generations does not mean punishing those who have just joined the labor market. Some estimations suggest that the reform proposed by the government will encourage businesses to hire more retirees, once the proposal includes exemptions related to the Severance Indemnity Fund for Employees (FGTS) and termination fines for that group. Therefore, the proposal not only promotes the loss of rights for older and retired workers but also discourages the market from hiring younger professionals. How can it be a tool to protect future generations? Moreover, by keeping older workers in the market for a longer time, this logic may predispose younger and less qualified professionals to accept the loss of labor rights, such as the case of the “green and yellow employment booklet”, which grants even less rights to workers.[4] On the other hand, a pension reform that does not look at the global scenario of labor and workers in Brazil is a mistake. In the country, more than 50 per cent of jobs are informal, and consequently those workers do not contribute to the social security system. According to Eduardo Fagnani, “the strict rules of the proposed reform may prevent another 20 per cent of workers from contributing, which will later result in pensions of 400 or 500 reais (about US$ 100 to 130).  Consequently, in a matter of 20 or 30 years, Brazil will be “a land of the destitute” or will experience “capitalism without customers”.

Lastly, the major setback of the reform proposed is the end of social security itself, one of the broadest and most fundamental concepts in the guarantee of social rights. The current prevision integrates social security, health and welfare. The reform proposed by the government establishes a new model for social security, which turns it into social insurance rather than a social right. That proposal represents a severe blow for the poor as it adds to the labor reform recently approved, which makes labor relations more flexible and precarious.  Upon the approval of such deep changes, Brazil will no longer comply with the guaranteed rights provisioned by the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (particularly its items 9 and 11), a immensurable setback and a violation of this international treaty ratified by the country (articles 2 and 5), and also the article 29 of the American Convention on Human Rights (Covenant of San José da Costa Rica), which Brazil ratified in 1992.

All serious countries should make necessary corrections in their social security system. However, it is unfair to do so at the expense of a social protection system and that the most affected by the reform are working citizens who have long footed this bill.  

Brasília, March 11, 2019.


Articulação para o Monitoramento dos Direitos Humanos no Brasil


Articulação Estadual MNDH RS

Centro de Direitos Humanos de Cristalândia – Dom Heriberto Hermes 

Centro de Direitos Humanos de Sapopemba – CDHS

Centro Gaspar Garcia de Direitos Humanos

Coletivo Jovem de Minas Gerais

Comissão de Direitos Humanos de Passo Fundo – CDHPF

Comissão Pastoral da Terra

Conselho Nacional do Laicato do Brasil – CNLB

FIAN Brasil

Fórum de Direitos Humanos e da Terra

Fórum Ecumênico ACT Brasil

Grupo Pesquisador em Educação Ambiental, Comunicação e Arte – GPEA-UFMT

Instituto Caracol – ICA

Instituto de Direitos Humanos Econômicos, Sociais, Culturais e Ambientais – IDHESCA

Koinonia Presença Ecumênica e Serviço

Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens – MAB

Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos – MNDH

Movimento REBELIÃO

Observatório da Educação Ambiental – OBSERVARE

Parceiros de Misereor no Brasil

Processo de Articulação e Diálogo Internacional – PAD

Rede Internacional de Pesquisadores em Educação Ambiental e Justiça Climática – REAJA

Rede Mato-grossense de Educação Ambiental – REMTEA

Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos – SMDH


[1] Ver entrevista para IHU Unisinos:

[2] Full report: and highlights of the report:

[3] Full interview:

[4] Ver entrevista à Folha de São Paulo: