History of emigration
Since the 1990s emigration has been one of the most important social phenomena in Brazil – as it has throughout Latin America.
Streams of emigrants took their leave of Brazil as a result of the economic developments of the 1980s. Until the onset of the economic recession the Brazilian people had remained true to their country even in times of economic and political difficulties. Only after the end of the military dictatorship in 1985 did the people´s dissatisfaction gradually begin to show in the form of emigration. The Sarney government (1985 to 1990) did not succeed in bringing the national debt and the highest rate of inflation Brazil had ever experienced under control. Not for political, but rather for economic reasons did many hundreds of thousand leave their country in this so-called "lost" decade.
As a result of disappointment over the continued economic standstill and the corruption scandals undermining President Collor (1990 to 1992), the mid 1990s saw a second wave of emigration. In 1995 the number of Brazilians living legally in the USA, Japan, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada and other countries was estimated to be over a million; ten years later this figure had already more than doubled.
Of the South Americans who entered the USA between 1990 and 2000, 65.6% were Brazilians.
In addition to North America and Europe, at the beginning of the 1980s Japan became the third major migration destination for Brazilians. Of these main destinations for emigrants, only Japan had recruited Brazilian workers. In response to the problems of the increasing number of Brazilians abroad, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, as foreign minister (1992-1993) under President Franco, made it a priority of his work to increase the number of consulates and embassies and extended their function to make them general places of information for Brazilians abroad.
The emigrant population
A disproportionate number of Brazilian emigrants to Japan, Europe and the USA are qualified workers. They are predominantly young
In Japan it is estimated that one third of Brazilian immigrants have high school diplomas yet they are usually employed in less popular jobs. They remit three to four billion US dollars annually back to their country of origin.
The international emigration of qualified people should be regarded as one consequence of the quest for social mobility that is still denied the younger population in Brazil. Due to the population explosion, medium-sized and large Brazilian cities do not offer the highly qualified population adequate employment opportunities.
However, emigration is not solely a reaction to the long period of economic instability, but also an escape from the everyday violent crime and human rights violations in Brazil. Brazilian researchers also cite the influence of international tourism and global habits of consumption as indirect factors in the emigration of young workers from the cities. In 2005, for example, 40 million people watched a daily soap opera called "America" about a young Brazilian woman who travels to the United States through Mexico and tries to build herself a life in Florida.
Further evidence of the high degree of connectivity with their country of origin is the fact that a not inconsiderable number of migrants, in total 187,180 persons, moved to Brazil as returnees between 1990 and 2000.
According to a report in the New York Times in 2007, fear of deportation and also the weak dollar are cited as reasons for increased numbers returning from the USA.45 The recent stabilisation of the Brazilian economy must meanwhile be an additional pull factor. The tendency not to want to settle permanently in the USA is also indicated by the low number of naturalised Brazilian migrants: in the year 2000 this was just 21.5% - the lowest of all South American migrants in the USA.