RIO DE JANEIRO, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against a social security reform which is being pushed by the government.
There were protests in all state capitals and a number of smaller cities. In Sao Paulo, 250,000 people gathered in the city's main avenue to protest against the reform, bus and subway workers went on strike for several hours. In many state capitals, teachers went on strike, and civil workers, garbage collectors, clinic workers also stopped working for the day.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva joined the protest in the Sao Paulo, who accused in his speech that the reform seeks to undo all the benefits achieved by the governments of the Workers' Party (2003-2016).
However, Brazilian President Michel Temer defended the reform bill on Wednesday, saying that it is necessary to reform the social security system now in order to prevent the collapse of the system in the near future.
"This will not take rights from anyone. Those who have acquired rights will not lose anything they have," he added.
The reform is regarded as a heavy blow to Brazilian workers. Under the changed regulations, Brazilians will have to work for much longer in order to get lower retirement pensions.
The government is trying to push the reform under the allegation that the social security system has a huge deficit, and without the reform, the system will collapse in the next few years.
Critics argued that the system actually has a surplus if one takes into account the several sources of funding, instead of just the main source, as the government does for its calculations.
The reform establishes a minimum age of 65 years old for retirement, regardless of how many years one has worked. In addition, there is a minimum time of contribution of 25 years, regardless of the age of retirement.
Also, in order to receive a full pension, a person must have worked for staggering 49 years, which may be hard to qualify while taken into consideration the Brazilians' average life expectancy of 75.