Developing City Case Study – São Paulo - Brazil

São Paulo is seen as the economic centre of Brazil, containing the headquarters of most companies.  In this city there is a large contrast between the rich and the poor.

This is demonstrated by children having to clean shoes in the city centre to earn pocket money and support their family.  They often live in the Periferia – this area has grown rapidly and without much planning.  Large families have small homes often without any proper washing facilities.  Often, only a few members of the family can get work.  From these areas it can take one hour to reach the city centre by bus.

            São Paulo has a population of 25 Million (predicted value for 2000) as a result of large numbers of immigrants and high natural increase.  Slum areas out of town are growing quickly and people are building, and living, on land they don’t even own.  Even if a family can find employment, it doesn’t mean that they will be able to afford a reasonable house that they want.  Due to the shortage of space people are forced to build illegal makeshift ‘shacks’ for housing, in areas which often don’t have basic amenities such as drainage.  Conditions deteriorate as more people move into the area with the streets becoming filthy and disease spreading rapidly.

            Council statistics show that 30% of dwellings in the city are ‘below acceptable standards’, one third of the total population live in poor quality houses with only half of all shacks connected to the sewerage system.

            The council has started schemes to build basic houses for people, in properly planned areas, with electricity, drainage and washing facilities.  People have begun to move to these from the old cramped, dangerous, and unstable houses.

            In total contrast, in other parts of the city are apartment blocks for middle class families, featuring many amenities and their own security.  These may be owned by a Father with an important position in a bank, and his family, who may not work.  Most of these households have at least one maid, paid only the equivalent of £8 per week, and the children are likely to attend private, fee paying schools, leading to them continuing to occupy the good jobs, and continuing with the high quality of life.

            The poor live in hope of getting better accommodation and jobs, but are stuck in a vicious circle, since they cannot afford suitable schooling, allowing them to climb the career ladder.  It seems that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing. 

For more information on São Paulo, see The Wider World by David Waugh, p.34-35 
For general information on the problems of urban growth, see Understanding GCSE Geography by Ann Bowen and John Pallister, p.140-141 
For Information about solving the problems of cities in the developing world (including self-help schemes) see The Wider World, p.36, and Understanding GCSE Geography, p.142.