Number of poor in Brazil grows by two million

The figure, going from 52.8 million poor in 2016 to 54.9 million in 2017, means 26.5 percent of the country was below the poverty line

The number of people living in poverty in Brazil grew by two million last year in the wake of the country's worst recession on record, according to the government statistics bureau.

The figure, going from 52.8 million poor in 2016 to 54.8 million in 2017, meant 26.5 percent of the country was below the poverty line, the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE) said in a statement.

The data relies on the definition of poverty given by the World Bank, which is when a person lives with less than the equivalent of $5.50 per day.

The number of Brazilians living in extreme poverty -- calculated at less than $1.90 per day -- rose from 13.5 million in 2016 to 15.2 million in 2017, representing 7.7 percent of the population.

Brazil, Latin America's most populous country with 208 million inhabitants, suffered its worst-ever recession between 2014 and 2016.

Last year it returned to growth, but only timidly.

The IBGE statement said unemployment rose from 6.9 percent to 12.5 percent between 2014 and 2016. The latest figures, dating from October this year, show it has declined to 11.7 percent.

The agency noted a gender wage gap, with men on average earning 29.7 percent more than women. But that was overshadowed by a wage difference based on race -- in 2017, white Brazilians earned an average 72.5 percent more than black or part-black Brazilians.

The figure, going from 52.8 million poor in 2016 to 54.9 million in 2017, means 26.5 percent of the country was below the poverty line