The youths of Class C will change the face of Brazil

They now represent a decisive electoral power base

Demonstrations in Brasilia in June 2013.
Demonstrations in Brasilia in June 2013. AFP

Nowadays Class C is the main character in Brazil’s story. They are the 40 million people who have emerged from poverty to become influential enough to re-shape the identity of the nation. According to Renato Meirelles, director of Instituto Data Popular, the children of these working class illiterate families may “change the face of Brazilian society.”

Unlike their parents who did not study, these youths have education and more access to information. They push for their studies in order to climb up the social ladder. According to a profile from Data Popular, Generación C represents 23 million youths between ages 18 and 30 who earn up to 1,020 reales (430 dollars). They constitute fifty-five percent of all Brazilians who fall within that age group.

These young people are the new thought leaders in their families. They are more informed than their parents and less conservative (especially on sexual and religious matters) and they are starting to coalesce into a large electoral power base.

Politicians and the clergy are especially keen to understand this new demographic because it will be a decisive force in the direction of the country in a few years.

They stand at odds with the atavistic resignation of their parents who threw themselves into the embrace of the welfare state. Many of the youths who coined the subversive slogans of the June 2013 demonstrations came from the outskirt neighborhoods of the large cities. They are Class C. They have more forceful demands than their parents did. They are the internet generation, the generation of global communication, and they form its own ideas about politics and society.

Many of them help their parents (especially the mothers who have had little or no schooling) learn how to use the computer so that they can set up a Facebook account or send emails to friends.

A new phenomenon is astir. The parents of these children who earn a better salary than they did when living in poverty, are making the sacrifice to pay for special courses so their daughter "will not have to clean houses all her life" and so their son does not end up being "another bricklayer" like his father. They want to see their children become Web technicians, and if possible, doctors or lawyers.

Many of these young people are already earning more than their parents do by launching careers as entrepreneurs. One might set up a hair salon; another may open a small shop.

These youths will constitute the majority of the Brazilian population. The political class, the economic power houses and religious authorities will have to be accountable to them.

According to recent studies young people are more critical of authority and more demanding with the government. They also represent a question mark for the clergy of various faiths - especially for the Catholic Church and the Evangelicals. According to social analyst Andrés Singer, 90 percent of the parents belonged to the evangelical groups while the Catholic Church had more influence with the educated and affluent classes.

What do the youths believe in? When the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) asked in a recent survey, there were 35,000 different answers.

The youths, however, are deserting the evangelical churches whose teachings they find too conservative. In many cases their decision has also led their parents away from the church.

The Catholic Church does not seem to benefit from this exodus. Although 90 percent of the population belonged to the Church, it too, has started to lose members, often to the evangelicals.

Recent surveys suggest that young people lean toward a "churchless faith" or "latent secularization" that is gradually moving them away from traditional religions. They believe in God, as their parents did, but they tend to be more dismissive of religious institutions.

They are the post-industrial, post-Cold War sons of environmentalism, of irrepressible secularization and fluid cultural exchange. Although many seem insensitive to the change, they will soon shape Brazil's identity.

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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