Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Argentina Lionel Messi, captain of the Argentina national football team and one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, fears contracting the coronavirus. His comment comes on the heels of Argentina’s withdrawal from Copa America because of a spike in COVID-19 cases. But, the pandemic has caused more than just football safety concerns. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Argentina has been harsh but the country is working to address these effects.

Spiking Cases

As Europe and the United States see a decline in COVID-19 infections, the virus’s new hot spot has become Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 89% of total COVID-19 deaths in those regions have occurred in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. As of July 2021, Johns Hopkins University reported that Argentina had seen more than 4.4 million COVID-19 cases and 94,000 deaths. Although lockdown measures remain in place, Argentina’s low vaccination rate presents an obstacle in battling COVID-19. As of July 2021, only around 9% of Argentina’s population is fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 and Poverty Rates

In the late 1990s, Argentina experienced an economic crash that pushed many people into poverty. From 1999 to 2002, the percentage of the population living on less than $5.50 per day rate rose from 28.5% to 49.9%. Over the next few decades, however, this trend saw improvements. Through social programs such as the Universal Child Allowance, a monthly stipend for unemployed parents of children younger than 18, the poverty rate decreased to 12.2% by 2018. However, the pandemic has driven poverty up again. By June 2020, the poverty rate rose to 40.9%, the highest since 2004, shortly after Argentina’s economic crisis.

Perhaps because Argentina was already in a recession when the pandemic began, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Argentina has been especially severe. The country’s unemployment rate rose from 9.8% in 2019 to 11.7% in 2020. The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicted that young women would face the highest unemployment rate. Therefore, industries with a large proportion of women workers, such as the tourism, hotel and restaurant industries, will have the most challenging recovery from the pandemic. Because of an already unstable economy, even the nearly $24 billion the Argentinian government spent on COVID-19 welfare programs was unable to pull citizens completely out of poverty.

Alleviating the Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Argentina

On June 11, 2021, Argentina approved the distribution of a single-dose vaccine that Cansino Biologics Inc. created. Cansino’s vaccine joins Argentina’s arsenal of approved vaccines, including the Sputnik V vaccine, the Sinopharm vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Inoculating a majority of Argentina’s population is not only the greatest weapon against COVID-19, but also reduces the burden of medical care and helps the recovery of a struggling economy.

Argentina is also making progress in improving its public healthcare system. In early 2021, the World Bank Board of Directors approved a $250 million U.S. loan that will aid 17 million Argentinians through a Supporting Effective Health Care Coverage project to optimize medical care access, improve the treatment of chronic diseases and offer maternal and child health support.

Argentina is a global leader in livestock production with approximately 700,000 square miles of pasture land and the United States engaged in nearly $24 billion worth of trade with the country in 2019. If wealthy countries like the United States invest in poverty reduction in Argentina, not only will Argentina’s economy improve but more business opportunities will open to the United States and the rest of the world.

Madeline Murphy
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Argentine Debt AgreementArgentina has been facing a long-lasting economic crisis, further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to half of the population lived in poverty in the second quarter of 2020, reaching an all-time high during the months of mandatory lockdowns. Due to the pandemic, the country also experienced a loss of 3.5 million jobs and unemployment rose to 13.1% in the second quarter since the closures hit small businesses hard. As a result, the impact of COVID-19 significantly hurt the domestic market. The Argentine debt agreement hopes to improve the financial crisis in Argentina.

The Argentine Debt Agreement

To help Argentina with its growing financial crisis, the Ad Hoc Group, Argentina Creditor Committee and the Exchange Bondholder Group have come to an agreement that will provide Argentina with financial relief in terms of its national debt. This relief is a major advancement in expanding Argentina’s access to international capital markets. The agreement lays the foundation for future sustainable fiscal policies that support the economy. Moreover, the debt agreement entails a lift of sovereign bonds by an average of 8.7%. Ultimately, Argentina is actively working toward providing sufficient cash flow within the economy to address rising economic concerns. This agreement also allows Argentina to avoid “protracted and costly legal proceedings with bondholders.”

Restructuring the Economy

The three creditor groups developed the debt agreement to restructure $65 billion worth of accumulated Argentinian debt. The creditors involved will receive 55 cents on the U.S. dollar. Originally, the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, desired to pursue 39 cents. The Argentine debt agreement covers 20% of the public debt of Argentina, which amounts to $323 billion. This presents only a partial solution to Argentina’s financial crisis but will certainly help the country move toward economic stability.

If Argentina defaults on the debt, there are possible consequences. By defaulting, creditors will not be eager to invest in Argentina. Diminishing debt through repayment shows commitment but will lead to less investment in the domestic development of the country through social programs, pension benefits, unemployment packages and more. However, the agreement is a step toward solving the rest of the economic dilemma. It utilizes the restructuring method, which provides Argentina with a long-term plan for rebuilding the economy.

Moreover, the agreement modifies the dates of payment for certain bonds. The modification that will be implemented “will improve the value of the proposal for creditors.” Multifarious investors are interested in the profit restructuring will produce and are betting on a boost in the economy.

Negotiating Future Monetary Policies

Argentina’s debt restructuring does not end there. Argentina and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will discuss Argentina’s plans on refinancing its $45 billion debt to the IMF. The focus will mostly be on loans maturing between 2021 and 2024. During this period, the International Monetary Fund will hold Argentina accountable for certain economic obligations. This accountability entails that Argentina must utilize “credible economic data” as proof of Argentina’s economic recovery path.

The Road Ahead

Debt relief is an effective solution to addressing Argentina’s financial crisis and rebuilding a resilient economy. Negotiations with creditors involve the nation requesting reasonable interest rates from now on, which will allow Argentina to truly stabilize. The agreement is very desirable as Argentina is also navigating the added impacts of COVID-19. In general, this revamped economic plan will not solely benefit Argentina but also the international financial system. By setting new precedents, Argentina can effectively re-enter the global market, ultimately contributing to global economic growth as a result.

Lauren Tabor
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Slow Fashion in Argentina
Argentina is the home of skilled rural artisans. Furthermore, it has an abundance of natural fibers, cultural craftsmanship and citizens eager to find employment. Slow fashion has allowed artisans to escape an exploitative fashion system. As such, this system pressures workers to toil in illegal sweatshops called talleres clandestinos. Brands and consumers that support slow fashion in Argentina uplifts artisans to earn a fair, living wage, respect from others for their artisanal skills and preserve their cultural techniques.

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion in Argentina has emerged through different initiatives. Organizations and businesses seek to make clothing with a positive social and environmental impact. The first edition of the Slow Fashion Authentic Argentino fashion contest launched in the city of Rosario in 2015. Additionally, the city municipality supported this federal initiative to promote slow fashion in all Argentinian provinces and to award designers on tailoring and sewing, textile comfort, garment functionality and innovation. Argentina Sustainable Fashion Association emerged to generate a network of artisans, producers, suppliers, designers and entrepreneurs working in sustainability in 2018.  Furthermore, it actively spreads awareness of sustainable fashion to Argentina’s general public through different initiatives, partnerships and projects.

Highlighting Hecho por Nosotros

Hecho por Nosotros is a nonprofit that holds consultative status with the United Nations. It uplifts local Argentinian producers by providing consistent, full access to global markets. Additionally, Hecho por Nosotros strives to change mindsets to create a new sustainability paradigm for the fashion industry. Its work has received endorsement from programs that aim to unite and advance sustainability actions such as the C&A Foundation, BCorps, ASHOKA Fellow, GlobalizerX and Fabric of Change by ASHOKA.

Hecho por Nosotros partners with animana, an Argentinian ethical fashion brand. Moreover, it has provided jobs to more than 3,000 artisans by increasing capacity to 364 artisan groups and 27 fiber producers over the last 10 years. Furthermore, it created a business network of 7,500 artisans to integrate them into global markets and trained 1,500 student designers in sustainable fashion. Big fashion houses exploit Latin American artisans. As a result, Argentina has combated this by purchasing quality materials and elaborate embroidery for extremely low prices and then marking it up to 1,000 times.

Slow Fashion Benefits

Slow fashion in Argentina allows artisans to escape the cycle of poverty by providing access to global markets. In addition, these markets allow them to sell their products. This provides them with solutions to Argentina’s high export tariffs and protectionist trade policies that have led to mounting unemployment rates. As a result, one-third of the population lives in poverty.

Consumers and brands that support slow fashion in Argentina allow artisans to prosper. It effectively uplifts them from the cycle of poverty, helps preserve traditional artisanal activities and shifts the focus to sustainable production. This leads to empowered communities producing high-quality products for conscious consumers all over the world.

– Giselle Magana
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Argentina Argentina is a South American country with a vibrant culture and scenic views. In recent years, the feminist movement has taken root in Argentina, challenging elements of government and culture that have long been failing Argentinian women. Argentina has made great strides toward positive change and equality but the country still experiences high rates of femicide —  gender-based hate crimes that result in the intentional killing of females. Despite the hurdles the country has faced with regard to women’s rights in Argentina, the country is making efforts to create a more inclusive Argentina.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Argentina

  1. Argentina granted women the right to vote in 1947. Though Argentina was not the first South or Central American country to grant women the right to vote, it was one of the earlier countries in the region to allow women the right to stand for election. The country legalized female representation in government in the same year it legalized women’s rights to vote on September 29, 1947.
  2. Argentina has high rates of female leadership. Argentina ranks second in South America on the percentage of women in parliament. It also ranks 17th in the world for the same metric. Argentina actually has a higher percentage of women in parliament than many countries often thought of as leading in female empowerment such as Belgium and the Netherlands. Women’s rights in Argentina still need improvement, however, female political participation is definitely a strong suit.
  3. Argentina is taking action against femicide and violence against women. The National Action Plan to Prevent and End Violence against Women (2017-2019) launched following the 2015 Global Leaders’ Meeting where Argentina committed to working toward improved gender equality. The plan creates a framework for making policy change to improve the protection and prevention of violence against women. It also creates a system for monitoring the success of potential actions. To end trafficking and exploitation and strengthen victim protection, Argentina created a femicide registry and a council.
  4. Femicide remains an issue in the age of COVID-19. According to the Women’s Office of the Supreme Court of Justice, one Argentinian woman is killed every 32 hours. Though Argentina does not experience the highest rate of femicide in South America, it ranks among the highest rates globally with 298 femicides in 2020. The creation of a hotline in 2018 aimed to assist victims of gender-based violence. The hotline has received more than 169,014 calls, expressing the necessity for these types of services. In response to these issues, Argentina has committed to addressing violence against women to achieve the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. One way Argentina has committed to action is by joining the U.N. Spotlight initiative, a global campaign focused on combating gender-based violence worldwide. This commitment aims to improve women’s rights in Argentina.
  5. #NiUnaMenos. Beginning in 2015, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) was born as a movement against femicide when Argentinian women gathered in Buenos Aires to protest the gender-based killings. The movement grew to encompass not only a call to end femicide but also a campaign to bring awareness to other forms of female discrimination in Argentina. #NiUnaMenos brought attention to violence and abuse toward women, most often in domestic environments that a partner has perpetuated, as well as economic inequality that disproportionately impacts females. The movement called upon policymakers to address the widening pay gap as well as the high female unemployment rate. The work of #NiUnaMenos has been largely successful as President Alberto Fernández and his administration have acknowledged the grievances the group has highlighted and pledged to create policy change to improve women’s rights in Argentina.

While violence toward women and femicide are issues in Argentina, the progress of the country to combat those challenges is a promising start toward eliminating them. Through the continued work of Argentina’s government, women’s rights in Argentina should continuously improve.

Jazmin Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Uncovering the Struggles and Successes of Argentinian Jews
While Argentinian Jews make up only 0.7% of the population, they have faced significant economic hardship and anti-semitism over the last few decades. Pre-COVID-19, more than one-quarter of the population lived below the poverty line. Additionally, lingering anti-semitism and an economy in a recession have made it nearly impossible for educated Jews to find high-paying jobs.

“Poverty affects Argentinians in general, not only Jewish people, as well as the economic ups and downs, [but] maybe the economic crisis and the inflation affects mostly to Jewish people because many of them are business people who see their businesses, incomes and savings damaged,” Sabri Toker, the coordinator for Onward Israel in Argentina, told The Borgen Project.

COVID-19 Deepens the Poverty Line

In 2020, Argentina faced a significant increase in poverty as COVID-19 deepened the country’s economic crisis. Due to strict lockdowns, Argentina’s poverty rate spiked to between 46% and 47% by the end of June 2020. This is in comparison to just 35.5% in the second half of 2019. The poverty line, drawn at $193 per month, is the reality for many of the 3.5 million people who experience lay-offs during the pandemic.

The pandemic has particularly impacted Argentina’s Jewish community as well, and expectations have determined that much of the community will make aliyah, or emigration, to Israel in 2021 due to economic concerns. In Argentina, a large part of the Jewish population falls into the middle class and has assimilated into Argentinian life. Like most of the country’s middle class, the country’s faulty economy harshly hit this subset. Under President Mauricio Macri, the economy has faced sharp inflation and the devaluation of the peso, which pushed 3.7 million Argentinians below the poverty line in a single year.

A History of Hardship

Anti-semitic attacks were frequent in Argentina prior to World War I. Then, Argentinian Jews faced pogroms following the Russian Revolution; in January 1919, hundreds of Jews experienced beatings and others burned or stole their property. Unable to find government or military work, Jews worked as farmers and shopkeepers. They lived modest lifestyles until the rise of Nazi sentiment in the country.

The rise of Nazism further limited employment and education opportunities for Argentinian Jews. On top of that, many lived in a state of fear and poverty. Argentine Presidents José Félix Uriburu and Agustín Pedro Justo led pro-Nazi regimes prior to World War II. This sentiment continued under Juan Peron, who allowed Argentina to become a safe haven for Nazis. Since Peron’s presidency, 45,000 Argentinian Jews have moved to Israel to escape anti-semitism and the economic struggles associated with low-skilled jobs. In 1960, Israeli agents captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, which increased anti-semitism in Argentina. During a military junta called the Dirty War, hundreds of Jews suffered kidnap and torture.

Discrimination Contributes to Poverty

Anti-semitism reached new heights following two terrorist attacks under President Carlos Menem. Firstly, the Israeli Embassy bombing in 1992 killed 32 people. And secondly, the suicide van bomb attack on Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in 1994 killed 87 people.

“We have discrimination in every environment we are involved in: Secondary school, university, at work, on daily life. It is not usual and an everyday thing, but it exists,” Toker said. “In my opinion, the Jewish community lost a lot of cultural aspects mostly in the last decades of the 20th century.”

By 2002, 24.8% lived in poverty, with an additional 7.5% of Argentinian Jews living in extreme poverty. During this time, banks like Banco Patricios and Banco Mayo collapsed, taking with them millions of dollars that the Jewish community owned. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing many middle-class Jews below the poverty line. Very few Jews hold leadership positions in the military, foreign ministry, or judiciary. Efforts to reduce anti-semitism have picked up over the last decade, but anti-semitic attacks on rabbis and synagogues, including on the country’s chief rabbi Gabriel Davidovich in 2019, have not gone away.

Assisting Argentina’s Vulnerable Jewish Populations

President Alberto Fernández has worked to strengthen ties with Israel, hold terrorist groups accountable and rebuild the country’s Jewish population. After Argentina signed a decree that added Hezbollah to the registry of terrorist organizations, Argentina adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, which sends a clear message that it will not tolerate any form of anti-semitism, including in the workplace.

Created in 1991, Fundación Tzedaká has worked to improve living conditions and job opportunities for Argentina’s impoverished Jews. More than 600 volunteers, 6,500 donors and almost 100 professionals dedicate themselves to the organization’s cause. The Fundación gives food aid to vulnerable families and offers healthcare and nutrition programs. Additionally, it provides housing subsidies and gives training and educational resources to vulnerable youth. In 2020, the organization launched the Guesher Assistance Program. The Program specifically assists people unable to afford food, housing and health needs during the pandemic.

One of Argentina’s Jewish community centers, the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), and the Argentine Jewish Schools Federation (FEJA) have also been instrumental in helping sustain schools in Argentina’s Jewish School Network. With many Jewish schools operating only part-time, concerns exist that school desertion could become a major issue. This is particularly concerning to the community as a similar phenomenon occurred during Argentina’s economic crisis two decades ago. AMIA and FEJA encourage monetary contributions to ensure that students not only receive proper education but also remain in the system. Because of this, students have the option to pursue more advanced studies.

Holding On and Moving Forward

Argentina’s Jewish community retained many of its cultural traditions despite its assimilation into the broader Argentinian middle class. “Nowadays we have places run by Orthodox, others by Conservative, others by Reform, every Jew has the possibility of choosing where to go, what to do, what to leave aside,” Toker said. “Those who really want to maintain cultural aspects do that because they want to leave to their children what they received from their grandparents.”

Despite lingering anti-semitism and increasing COVID-19 hardships, Argentinian Jews have not lost their culture. They continue to seek employment and fight against those who have for so long have suppressed their growth.

– Noah Sheidlower
Photo: Flickr

Updates on SDG Goal 10 in ArgentinaIn Argentina, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic unrest has stalled efforts to close the inequality gap. Before the pandemic hit, Argentina was making progress on a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a framework of global objectives created by the United Nations, designed as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030. The country was “well-positioned” compared to its Latin American counterparts, according to the Argentine Network for International Cooperation (RACI). The onset of COVID-19 has impacted updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina.

Achieving SDG 10: Reducing Inequality

Argentina had been struggling to achieve SDG 10, which focuses on reducing inequalities within a county’s population and among different countries around the world. To measure inequality, the SDGs use a scale of 0 to 100. The lower the score, the closer the country is to achieving economic equality. The goal is to achieve a ranking of 30 or lower by 2030. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina had a ranking of 51. The pandemic has siphoned resources out of the government and stalled updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina and other progressive reforms. On top of that, millions of Argentinians have lost their jobs and inequality is expanding as a result.

President Alberto Fernández

In December 2019, President Alberto Fernández won the presidential election over conservative incumbent, Mauricio Macri. President Fernández’s political style is that of his mentor, former president, Néstor Kirchner. However, “the COVID-19 pandemic might very well shatter the center-left president’s dreams of following in his mentor’s footsteps and bringing social progress and economic growth to Argentina,” writes Hugo Goeury.

Despite Fernandez’s progressive goals for his administration, reforms have all been put on the back burner since the arrival of COVID-19 in Argentina.

Poverty, Unemployment and the Wealth Gap

In the first half of 2020 alone, the poverty rate among Argentinians increased to almost 41%, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas reported, nearly a 5% increase from the previous year. The Central Bank is also predicting the GDP to contract by nearly 11%.

With almost a third of Argentine workers facing unemployment, President Fernandez is scrambling to financially support his unemployed constituents, while also negotiating the country’s debt owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to the World Inequality Database, as of 2019, the top 10% wealthiest Argentinians controlled nearly 40% of the country’s income, while the bottom 50% only possessed 17.9% of the nation’s income.

Better Days Ahead for Argentina

Even though updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina seem especially challenging right now, Argentinians are still
pushing forward to make their country more equitable for everyone. The U.N. says, “In the post-pandemic world, Argentina must strengthen its productive apparatus and continue to eliminate inherited social inequities and those aggravated by COVID-19.”

– Laney Pope
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Informal Employment
Informal economies are a global phenomenon that often goes unmentioned by popular media. From street vendors to unregistered employees in sweatshops, informal workers make up a large portion of a country’s labor. Informal employment refers to workers who engage in labor that is not taxed or registered by the government. Informal economies are popular because of the opportunity to access wealth. While many see informality as a chance for upward mobility, there are many downfalls to this sector which are clearly visible in the case of Argentina.

Argentina has one of the largest economies in Latin America as it has vast natural resources in energy and agriculture. As of 2020, their GDP stood at 450 billion U.S. dollars and the country had significant advantages in the fields of manufacturing and tech industries. While Argentina’s numbers stand strong compared to other countries in the Americas, a closer look into their labor shows a different picture of their economy. In 2018, informal employment was 48.1% of total employment in Argentina. While many in Argentina find that informal employment is the only option for financial survival, this sector brings about serious issues for both individual workers and the larger economy.

Poverty and Informal Employment

The push factors to join the informal economy of Argentina differ based on one’s purpose in this sector. For employers, cheap wages are a major reason to seek unregistered workers. Informality markets itself as a money-saving business model. For workers, informality does not present itself as an option but as a means for financial survival. Argentina’s market does not offer many jobs in the formal economy, leading employees to grab at whatever positions are available.

The link between informality and poverty is hard to explore. Questions remain over whether informality causes higher levels of poverty or if poverty leads to higher levels of informal employment. The World Bank team in Argentina has developed a two-year program to analyze the causes and consequences of informality in Argentina. In their study, it was found that informal work appears to be the most common type of employment among workers in poor households, but the degree and direction of causation are more difficult to determine. Whether poverty causes informality or informality causes poverty is uncertain. The program is finding that prior to Argentina’s economic crisis, the increase in poverty rates appeared to be driven by an increase in poverty among informal households. Such statistics confirm at least a correlative link between the two issues. This serves as evidence for why issues with informality should be at the forefront of anti-poverty efforts.

Dangers of Informal Employment

Informal economies pose several consequences for the welfare of workers and the larger market economy of a country. On the side of workers, informal employment is an opportunity that comes with many risks. The biggest obstacle with informal economies is the recognition of worker’s rights. Given that these workers are not registered, organizations do not have the responsibility to uphold necessary protections. In Argentina, the Confederation of Popular Economy Workers estimates that only approximately 20,000 workers, or about 0.3%, have acquired labor rights so far.  This 0.3% comes from a total of 7.2 million informal workers, thus showing that many of these persons lack access to health insurance, pension, and protection against labor accidents. Consequently, informal workers often find themselves at the margins of society as their work fails to secure a stable income.

Informality also poses a threat to the overall economy of a country. In a personal interview with Dr. Jeronimo Montero Bressan, a full-time researcher for the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina, he explained the ways in which the informal sector affects the rest of the country. Informal employment is a subsidy to the private sector. Most informal employment falls in the hands of private companies that produce subcontracting chains. This way informal workers can work under formal companies.

For Dr. Montero Bressan, while many come to have a romantic view of informality, the reality presents a chain of exploitation and an overall risk for the livelihood of the rest of the country. Dr. Montero Bressan has attested that because informal workers receive little money, wages will likely diminish throughout the entire economy, thus serving to motivate this type of employment. He has also said, “So, you tell people you won’t hire them because you could get the same labor for half what you pay them.” Informal economies do not just have an effect within a certain sector but come to influence the economy of the entire country. Without stronger regulation, everyone will stand at a loss as the value of labor falls with companies being able to ignore worker’s rights.

What is the response?

As Argentina sees stable numbers in the informal economies, efforts to reform this sector continue to fall short. According to Dr. Montero Bressan, the government of Argentina has done little to improve the rights of informal workers. In recent years, fines for specific sectors were blanketed, preventing companies from being fined when they leave workers unregistered. From his perspective, Argentina has weak labor laws that can provide little security. Dr. Montero Bressan has stated that if one were to be fired from an informal job, the employer could be taken to trial, however, the only likely result would be compensation. Such compensation gives laborers some value for their work, however, one-time compensation will not fix the problem of informality. Employees will find themselves back in poverty and seeking informal employment once the compensation runs out.

Informal employment generates consequences from the very beginning as worker’s rights are denied. For Argentina, the informal sector poses an extensive problem for both informal workers and the larger economy as informality decreases wages in the country. The informal sector has a strong connection with poverty as this means of labor is generally common in poor households. This sector, however, is not sustainable and the government of Argentina must respond by providing protection for workers and holding companies accountable for failing to register their employees.

– Ana Paola Asturias

Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in ArgentinaPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many children in Argentina had been living in poverty. The pandemic has caused numbers to soar due to its many negative effects. When considering the long-term presence and future impacts caused by poverty, it is all the more critical to help the children in this country, and around the world. This article highlights facts about child poverty in Argentina, as well as some organizations on the ground helping such children.

The Current Situation

There has never been a more critical time for action than now. UNICEF estimates that 63% of Argentinian children will be living in poverty by the end of 2020, due to COVID-19. In August of 2019, child poverty reached over 50%, with 13% of children in a state of hunger. As compared to the year prior, this is an 11% increase. UNICEF estimates that at the end of 2020, there will be an increase of 18.7% in extreme poverty among children and teenagers.

Stats

The above figures depict that one in every two Argentinian children lives in poverty, which amounts to five million children. One million of these children are homeless. Those who do have homes often deal with rough home lives. Many children are subject to child labor, which includes work as domestics or “house slaves.” These children end up working in illegal textile workshops, mining, construction, or agriculture. The exploitation of child labor is commonly related to sexual exploitation. In response, Argentina has passed laws and social programs to end child labor and sexual exploitation. However, the fight to end these practices must continue.

When not at home, (only a few) children received a formal education. As of 2017, nearly 20% of Argentinian children do not attend school. After the collapse of the economy nearly 20 years ago, funding for education was heavily reduced. Children living in poverty were the first to be affected, as they had to work in order to provide for their families. There are also issues with violence occurring in schools. Bodily punishment still takes place when young school children misbehave, which can develop into behavioral problems and the belief that violence is the norm.

As compared to the rest of the population, Native children are at high risk for poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. For example, in the province of Tucumán, the Indigenous children and families live well below the poverty line and have also suffered illegal evictions from their ancestral lands. Additionally, these children are exposed to violence, malnutrition, disease, and a lack of proper education.

Aid

Child poverty in Argentina seems rather defeating based on these statistics. However, there are multiple organizations that are on the ground fighting for the human rights, safety, health, and happiness of Argentinian children.

One is Mensajeros de la Paz, a temporary home for vulnerable girls. Another is the Sumando Manos Foundation, which extends pediatric visits out to more than 7,000 at-risk children and their communities. The foundation also supplies food, provides critical medical and dental attention, and teaches fundamental health care. There is also Fundacion Oportunidad. This organization increases opportunities for economic and social integration of young Argentinian women in a situation of social vulnerability. Involvement in these organizations, as well as donation opportunities, are endless.

There are five dimensions of well-being that are vital to the success of childhood development. They are adequate nutrition, education, safe areas to live and play, access to health services, and financial stability. The fight cannot stop until there is an end to child poverty in Argentina and until each child has access to a self, healthy life.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

The Malbec MiracleIn the early 1900s, Argentina was a rising star. The country had an excellent climate, cheap land, and a strategic location for trade. Soon enough, Argentina had one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. People expected skyscrapers and cities to replace rural land. This, however, did not come to pass. Argentina’s economic growth suddenly faded, and poverty rates grew. From 1975 to 1990, Argentina suffered from military dictators and constant political conflict. It seemed to be over for the rising star. Then, in a small province called Mendoza, the Malbec miracle changed everything.

A Turn of the Century Depression

The wine, as a commodity, was not new to Argentina. In fact, the country’s wine industry was a large reason for its economic success in the early 1900s. Introduced by European settlers, Argentina’s temperate climate was perfect for growing wine. Argentina also does not have a large presence of Phylloxera, an insect that destroys vineyards. The province of Mendoza, with its high altitude and intense sunlight, is particularly suitable for growing wine. Unfortunately, Argentina’s wine industry fell along with its overall economy during a major recession from 1998 to 2002. This was due to a dependence on domestic demand.

Around 90% of the wine produced in Argentina was consumed locally. When poverty started to increase, people could no longer buy wine. Argentina’s economy hit record lows in the late 1980s. And, the grape variety called Malbec was unknown and dismissed by many as a “poor-mans grape.” It was clear that Argentina needed a miracle.

Economic Success

Argentines could not grow the Malbec grape. It was very susceptible to parasites and needed high elevation and perfect weather for cultivation. Most of the world had forgotten about the grape. But, Mendoza’s high elevation and parasite free environment made it perfect to grow Malbec. Improvements in technology and growing methods made the Malbec into fine wine. In the 1990s, Argentina started to focus on exporting its wine. This proved to be a tremendous success, with fine wine exports increasing from $7.5 million in 1990 to $120 million in 2001. Since most of the wine exported was Malbec, the once-forgotten grape proved instrumental in Argentina’s economic recovery.

Argentina Today

The Malbec miracle had impacts far beyond the wine industry. Argentina now had a reputation for producing fine wine. This opened the doors for foreign investment and tourism. People all over the world wanted to visit Mendoza. With this new identity, as the world’s premier country for Malbec wine, Argentina’s economy continued to grow despite numerous setbacks including the 1998-2002 Great Depression. Upon Argentina’s economic recovery, the poverty rate decreased dramatically from 44% in 2002 to 16% in 2007.

The strong wine industry continued to create jobs and ensure global interest in the country. Now, Argentina is the fifth-largest wine producer in the world. The country also maintains its title as the Malbec grape producer, growing more than 75% of all Malbec in the world. This success can be largely attributed to Mendoza, which produces about 80% of Argentina’s wine.

Looking Forward

The Malbec miracle has completely revitalized Argentina’s image throughout the world. Mendoza’s economic success has largely reduced poverty for everyone in the country. Although Argentina is no longer the star many thought it would be, dramatic events like the Malbec miracle have changed things for the better. Argentina now has a significant place in the global market, with its wine industry leading the way. Mendoza remains the gold standard for Malbec wine, with the once-forgotten “poor man’s grape” having become the miracle that made Argentina into what it is today.

Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Argentina. Little girl with long brown hair and wearing an orange sweater.
Argentina has taken steps to address employment discrimination, access to transportation and access to quality education for people with disabilities, factors that have historically contributed to a correlation between disability and poverty in Argentina.

According to estimates based on census data from 2010, around 5 million Argentines have a disability and the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Argentina stood at 91% in 2004. Additionally, the United Nations has reported that youth with disabilities are far more likely to fall at or below the poverty line in comparison to those who do not have disabilities. However, recent action from the government is beginning to address the link between disability and poverty in Argentina.

Addressing Employment Discrimination 

In Argentina, people have often seen those with disabilities as “objects of charity” rather than productive members of society entitled to the same opportunities and responsibilities as anyone else. These views have inhibited disabled people’s ability to acquire employment and earn living wages for their work. A shift away from this perception of people with disabilities began during the 1970s and in 1981, the Argentine government agreed to approve an employment quota requiring that disabled people hold 4% of federal government jobs. Additionally, in 1988, the legislature passed an anti-discrimination law to help protect disabled Argentines from discriminatory practices. However, due to a lack of enforcement and regulation of such laws, the correlation between disability and poverty in Argentina has persisted for decades.

A significant step toward helping disabled Argentines obtain equal employment has come with Argentina’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008. The convention has since received constitutional status in the country.

This treaty makes Argentina accountable for upholding its commitment to fully including people with disabilities in all areas of society. As such, in 2011, a National Disability Observatory emerged to supervise the implementation of the convention. It involves various working groups consisting of people with disabilities and public officials to monitor different areas of public policy including access to employment.

Since the adoption of the CRPD, Argentina has allocated over 724 million Argentine pesos toward helping promote the employment of people with disabilities. These programs have ranged from vocational training to the implementation of supported employment programs across government agencies to help reach the 4% job quota in public employment in 2017.

Addressing Access to Transportation

Although access to public transportation remains a significant barrier to employment for many disabled Argentines, some have taken measures to make public transportation physically and economically accessible to those with disabilities. Reports have determined that almost all buses in the capital city of Buenos Aires have a manual ramp at the rear door.

The subway station that people know as the subte has automated ramps and street elevators that often lead directly to the boarding platform. Additionally, plans have emerged to increase the number of stations with braille signage and tactile markers. These features have enabled many Argentines to travel freely and independently from their homes to workplaces.

As disability and poverty in Argentina so often interweave, the government has allowed disabled Argentines to ride all public transportation free of charge with the use of disability certificates. In some cases travel may even be free for a traveling companion depending on the disability. These certificates are available following a certification process that is voluntary and of no cost to the disabled person or their family.

Addressing Access to Education 

The United Nations has stated that as countries work to reduce poverty, they must ensure that all youth receive the same opportunities to contribute to society, and that increasing access to inclusive education is instrumental in bridging this gap as inequities in education negatively impact employment options for individuals with disabilities. While Argentina guarantees access to education for children with disabilities, these children often meet with discriminatory practices in schools and are subject to a lower quality of education, further compounding the effects of disability and poverty in the country.

As of 2016, the Ministry of Education in Argentina organized 35 events and workshops focused on drafting inclusive education guidelines and providing training to teachers. These programs have reached an estimated 45,250 people consisting of teaching staff and the general public. The Ministry has also prepared materials to increase awareness of inclusive education practices, including guidelines for providing accommodations and support to students.

The Argentine government has begun overseeing the implementation of inclusive education policies in all the nation’s provinces with a toll-free national hotline to record and track instances of discrimination in educational settings. Furthermore, with the support of the World Bank, planning and development are underway for inclusive education projects for schools in rural areas of the country where a lack of basic resources and services exacerbates disability and poverty in Argentina.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr