News

Brazilian Government Gives Workers $25 a Month for Culture

by Kyle Chayka on January 23, 2013

Oscar Niemeyer's Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo via architecture.about.com)

Oscar Niemeyer’s Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (photo via architecture.about.com)

If the NEA needed any more reasons to look inadequate, Brazil just offered one: the government has decided to give Brazilian workers a stipend of $25 a month just for “cultural expenses” — that’s anything from books and movies to tickets to art museums.

According to the Agence France Presse, the new policy is a way to provide access to culture for all Brazilians. “In all developed countries, culture plays a key role in the economy,” Brazil’s Culture Minister Marta Suplicy said. “Why would the poor not be able to access culture?”

Ninety percent of the stipend will be covered by employers, who will be able to deduct the amount from their income taxes. Workers pay the remaining 10 percent out of their own paychecks but can opt out if they prefer. The benefit can go to workers earning as much as five times the minimum wage, but it’s up to employers to choose the benchmarks. The $25 culture stipend will be paid through an electronic card, which will limit the spending to cultural goods.

Not only is the new stipend good for those who consume culture; it’s presumably going to benefit cultural creators as well. Suplicy noted that it could inject up to $3.5 billion into the cultural sector. Similar to how a tax credit or refund might bolster household spending, the country is hoping that its new policy will give cultural enterprises new energy.

On Twitter, novelist Hari Kunzru predicts the sudden interest of international hipsters in Portuguese and a mass exodus out of hoods like Williamsburg and Shoreditch to Brazil. He notes that the projected $3.5 billion is seven times the UK’s arts council budget. The cultural stipend isn’t exactly a grant program, however; it just frees up Brazilians to spend a little bit more on the arts. And which arts those are, exactly, isn’t determined. It could just mean bigger movie box-office takes rather than a a sudden flowering of art exhibitions.

Although giving $25 to US workers for cultural consumption would be fantastic, the amount might not go too far in New York City’s museums — adult tickets run $25 at MoMA, $14 at the New Museum, and $22 at the Guggenheim.

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  • Shana Manuel

    Interesting article. Twenty five dollars wouldn’t go a long way in NYC, but it is great for the Brazilians! Thanks for sharing this interesting nugget of information!

  • J. W. Bussmann

    Actually R$50 does not go a long way in Brasil anymore. Add to that economic uncertainty and worries over the return of inflation. For those with families, this is nothing more than a pittance. In a country so plagued by hefty bureaucracy and seemingly inextinguishable corruption, this will be hard to administrate cleanly and fairly. A better move would be to ensure that there are more free cultural activities available at any and all times.

    • tatiane

      Totally agree..I’m a Brazilian and R$50 is nothing, it is an interesting idea but unfortunately, cities such as Sao Paulo are as expensive as NYC, and on the poorer areas of Brazil people would definitely benefit from more schools and a better education to then really decide what to choose in terms of culture, or what else, sometimes there are simply not enough cultural options in the countryside…it seems like the wrong way to go…filling a social gap (with money) which is much more deeper than people from other countries could perceive. Numbers and bucks are not the only things that matter in terms of culture. That’s the kind of popular strategy – giving money – without providing means…sad…

  • Diane Farr Golling

    Wouldn’t go a long way in NYC?! Come on. You guys have amazon.com too. :)
    Actually, the ability to visit the Guggenheim one month, MOMA the next, etc., would be fantastic. No need to sneer at $25. Can I save up my monthly pittance and go to a Broadway show once a year? I’m SO there.

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