Samba schools warm up economy all year round in Rio

Carnival is expected to bring in over $911 million to the city in 2020

Published in 26/02/2020 - 14:57 By Alana Gandra - Rio de Janeiro

Samba schools help warming up the economy of Rio de Janeiro throughout the year, economist Marcel Balassiano at the Brazilian Economy Institute of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) said in an interview with Agência Brasil.

Carnival this year is likely to inject into the city’s both formal and informal economies over $911 million on Carnival days and the week before—surpassing the $861 million reported during 2019’s festivities.

Balassiano noted that the samba schools have a huge impact on the economy, especially when it comes to hotels, bars, food, and transport. “It’s not just on Carnival days. Schools make an impact the whole year round through the Carnival industry, with a number of productive sectors at full swing at gymnasium and workshop events, keeping both the formal and informal economies alive.”

When events such as street or gymnasium rehearsals take place, he pointed out, they bring to their neighborhoods a lot of people who buy from bars, restaurants, and also street vendors. “This is particularly important right now in both Rio and Brazil, as they’re both recovering, though slowly, from the recession the country was in from 2014 to 2016. The worst consequence of this recession is the labor market, which is in a rather precarious situation at the moment,” Balassiano declared.

Informal jobs

Brazil’s unemployed, sub-employed, and the 40 million workers in informal jobs counted together amount to nearly 70 million people in a precarious situation in the labor market, of whom 5 million are in the state of Rio de Janeiro alone, said the FGV economist. In the informal market, the state has approximately 3 million people. “These Carnival events end up helping with the informality issue.” This can be seen in any city with a samba school, he noted.

The specialist said that one of the main economic solutions for Rio de Janeiro is tourism with increased care and attention, due to the benefits the sector brings about in the state as a whole. Balassiano noted that Rio’s tourist agenda has two main yearly events—the New Year and Carnival—and Rock in Rio every two years. But Rio’s tourism and economy should not be exclusively about mega events, he said.

He went on to say that if there were a tourism agenda for the entire year, including conferences and business, both the city and the state would manage to have a constant flow of tourists, which could favor the economy and eliminate the five-year reduction experienced by the service sector.


Lacking subsidies from the city, the samba schools in the so-called Special Group (the league formed by the country’s schools) resorts more and more to private investment. Tickets for the parades at the Sambódromo are split among the schools, which also get a portion of the revenues from the rights to broadcast the show at the Marquês de Sapucaí avenue. Gymnasium functions are another source of income.

Marcel Balassiano also mentioned that a number of schools have joined the Programa Sócio Torcedor (“partner supporter program,” in a literal translation), also adopted by football clubs, but he argues that they need to become more attractive and well-known in order to get more partners and more funding as a result. “Major schools like Salgueiro, Portela, Mocidade, have programs for their partners, with different benefits each.” He believes this is part of what the future holds in store, so that schools can operate under better financial conditions.

Another initiative, launched by Rio’s Mangueira this year, was crowdfunding. The number of supporters desired was not reached, but Balassiano said that what matters is that the idea can be better developed and bring supporters closer to their schools, helping raise funds for parade preparations and also the social programs devised by the schools. “Providing supporters with the chance to help their school win is a really good idea,” the economist declared. In the case of Mangueira, collaborators receive an official school flag, autographed by its main carnival artists, among other giveaways.

The economist also stated that schools must be self-sustainable and never set aside the cultural aspects that represent the social projects they conduct, which are reflected in better education and rescue children from problems like drug trafficking.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Valéria Aguiar / Nira Foster

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