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close this bookThe Mega-city in Latin America (UNU, 1996, 282 pages)
close this folder10. São Paulo: A growth process full of contradictions
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentDevelopment of a metropolis
View the documentMetropolitan involution
View the documentQuality of life in the state of São Paulo
View the documentMetropolitan problems
View the documentPublic administration
View the documentThe future
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences

The future

Between 1970 and 1980, 4.6 million people were added to the metropolitan population, 2.3 million of them as migrants. During the same period, the population of Rio de Janeiro increased by "only" 2.1 million people and the number of migrants into the whole of Amazonia totalled only 2 million. Seventeen per cent of all migrants in the country - 40 per cent of all the migrants who moved to the nine metropolitan regions - moved to São Paulo.

Fortunately, the pace of growth slowed during the 1980s and the forecast of 19 million inhabitants by 1990 was well wide of the mark. A halving of the annual growth rate of some 250,000 people per annum meant that the city had only 15.2 million inhabitants in 1991. Annual growth in the 1980s had averaged 1.9 per cent compared to 4.5 per cent in the 1970s.

One reason for this slowing in growth is the dramatic fall in fertility in the country. In the early 1950s, the average woman bore 6.2 children in her lifetime, in the early 1980s only 3.5. Brazil's population growth rate fell from 3.7 per cent per annum in the 1970s to 1.9 per cent during the 1980s. A further reason for the marked slowing in São Paulo's population increase is the changing pattern of migration. During the 1980s, there was an important reversal in the long-term trend, the metropolitan area suffering a net loss in the numbers of people moving into and out of the city (Perillo and Aranha, 1992). In the 1970s, the metropolitan area gained 2.3 million people through migration; between 1980 and 1991, it lost 430,000.3 By contrast, net migration to the rest of the state increased by 838,000 in the 1980s compared to 751,000 in the 1970s. People have turned their backs on the city of São Paulo.

The change can be explained by the decentralization of manufacturing and service activity to areas beyond the metropolitan region. This trend is very worrying at a time of increasing social needs, because it promises to cut the tax revenues of the city authorities. Local government can no longer rely on the federal budget, which is likely to decline in real terms, nor on foreign loans. The difficulties of providing infrastructure in the 1970s were addressed with the help of loans from the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank, but this option is much less open to the authorities today. A critical issue today, therefore, is how to provide infrastructure and services to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of both industrial and residential users in an environment of declining resources. The prospects for social spending do not look good.

Even if the authorities are helped by the slower rate of demographic growth, the city's population will continue to grow. It will take an enormous effort to address the needs of these additional people as well as those of the people who were neglected during the lost decade of the 1980s. Such an effort will be helped if the economy begins to grow once again, but, even if it does, one major policy change is vital: more tax resources must be shifted from the State of São Paulo and from the nation to the municipal authorities. Without larger fiscal transfers the prospects for the city look bleak.