Brazil is the most industrialized country in South America and is the tenth richest country in the world. Nevertheless, there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor. Two-thirds of Brazilian people live below the poverty line and one-third suffer from malnutrition.

Brazil's economy was once based primarily on agriculture. A few wealthy people owned most of the farmland. Many people worked the land as labourers. In the 1970s rapid industrialization took place. People moved to the big cities to look for better jobs. Today, seven out of ten people live and work in cities, but the industries in these urban centres cannot provide enough jobs. Cities are crowded with poor and unemployed people. Seventy percent of the urban working class is not unionized. This means wages and the standard of living for people in this group are low.

Did you know?

The city of São Paulo has the world's largest Japanese community outside of Japan.

Middle and upper class people work as civil servants, managers or professionals and live very well.

Settlers who live by the river Amazon and the interior of Brazil lead simple lives. They grow basic crops, catch fish or raise cattle. In the northern region, fishing, tourism, and agriculture are important. In the south there are industries, mines, cattle ranches, sugar cane and soy plantations. As in other areas of Brazil, wealthy people often own farms. The workers however, live in small houses.

Brazil remains a patriarchal society and the contributions of women in the work force are not yet fully acknowledged. A desire for change and the economic realities of Brazil have dramatically altered the country. Many women now have college degrees and work outside the home. Women are pursuing careers in politics, banking and business. More and more daughters are taking over their father's businesses and many doctors and scientists are women.