Agricultural modernization, employment and rural exodus in Brazil – the 80’s

Vol. 17 No. 3 (1997)

Jul-Sep / 1997
Published July 1, 1997
PDF-Portuguese (Português (Brasil))
PDF-Portuguese (Português (Brasil))

How to Cite

Mueller, Charles C., and George Martine. 1997. “Agricultural Modernization, Employment and Rural Exodus in Brazil – the 80’s”. Brazilian Journal of Political Economy 17 (3):407-27.

Agricultural modernization, employment and rural exodus in Brazil – the 80’s

Charles C. Mueller
Departamento de Economia da Universidade de Brasília e do Instituto Sociedade População e Natureza (ISPN), Brasília/DF, Brasil.
George Martine
Ex-presidente do Instituto Sociedade População e Natureza (ISPN), Brasília, e, presentemente, consultor das Nações Unidas em Santiago, Chile.
Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 17 No. 3 (1997), Jul-Sep / 1997, Pages 407-427


The paper examines the effects of the significant changes in Brazil’s agricultural
policy during the 1980s, on the ability of its modem agricultural areas to generate jobs
and to retain rural population. This was done by identifying large zones of rapid agricultural
expansion and modernization, and observing the changes in the decade, in agricultural
employment and in rural population. It was possible to establish that the areas of modem
agriculture in the country’s Center-South region, and in the savannas (“cerrados”) of the
Center-West, either generated very little employment, or experimented declines in agricultural manpower. Moreover, the rural population of all these areas experimented reductions. In
the Center-South the declines were quite substantial but even in the “cerrados” there were
significant reductions. Therefore, to the contrary of what one might expect from the changes
in agricultural policy brought about by the crises of the 1980s, Brazil’s agriculture continued
to expel rural manpower and population. However, in the period this expulsion was more
selective, being restricted mainly to de dynamic agricultural areas. In the rest of the country,
to the contrary of what took place in the 1970s, rural emigration was either small, or there
was retention of population. In fact, this contrasting pattern of migration made it possible
an overall abatement in Brazil’s rural migration in the 1980s.

JEL Classification: Q15; R11; O13.

Keywords: Rural exodus employment agricultural modernization