Urban Poverty in ArgentinaArgentina has struggled economically for decades. While the entire nation suffers during times of crisis, urban poverty has become a prominent facet of the nation’s dwindling economy. Urban poverty in Argentina has been growing, and its effects go beyond financial hardships. Poverty entails multiple dimensions of deprivation, including poor access to food, health services, basic amenities, housing, a clean environment and education.

The Dimensions of Urban Poverty

The extent of urban poverty in Argentina has had devastating effects. During the first semester of 2020, millions of city dwellers were burdened by poverty levels. The impact is widespread, with almost 12 million Argentines living below the national poverty level, constituting 40.9% of the urban population. Additionally, 3 million people live below the extreme poverty level, representing 10.5% of the urban population. This marked the most significant rise in urban poverty since 2016. While the impact is felt across various age groups, there is an unequal distribution of its effects. The age group between 15 and 29 experienced the most pronounced increase in poverty. Notably, the highest concentration of urban poverty is in children between 0 to 14.

A Multifaceted Lack of Access

Alarming statistics from 2021 reveal that 26% of urban Argentinians struggle to access adequate food and health services, while 28% lack basic amenities like running water and electricity. Housing conditions exacerbate the issue, with 21% enduring insecure living arrangements and limited access to health care. Environmental factors further compound the hardships, as 26.5% live in polluted surroundings. Education for adults and youths, a crucial pathway out of poverty, remains a concern, with 31.5% lacking suitable opportunities.

Furthermore, a 2016 national exam showed that students from urban primary schools scored lower on average than rural establishments in both language and math.

Labor Market

Underdeveloped neighborhoods and those who live in these communities have also been experiencing a harsh labor market with a growing presence of impoverished workers, as half of the urban workforce is grappling with labor-related challenges. These workers receive a monthly income 30% lower than the average employed worker. The Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) published a report on national employment from 2003 to 2022, showing disheartening results. The report highlights the alarming dominance of unregulated and informal jobs in urban Argentina. A shocking 43.8% of the urban labor force worked in the informal sector in 2022. Argentinian urban poverty leaves millions working in an industry without social protection and with income instability and exploitative working conditions.

Fundación Si

While urban poverty in Argentina is a damming issue, some people work tirelessly to improve these people’s livelihoods. Fundación Si Argentina is an NGO founded in 2012 that specializes in tackling poverty nationwide. Its focus is to improve the quality of life and chances of social inclusion for those in vulnerable economic positions. The NGO has projects regarding youth housing, homelessness, community development and natural disasters. 

Fundación Si Argentina offers housing and financial aid for underprivileged graduates to promote access to education. It also performs nightly trips to provide food, medical attention and emotional support to the nation’s homeless. Community involvement is prevalent, as programs give the young and underprivileged a sense of togetherness, solidarity and social responsibility while also creating a nurturing space for expression and belonging. Moreover, the organization swiftly provides aid as it collects donations and plays its role in rebuilding affected communities when natural disasters occur. 

The organization´s Argentinian altruism has had an impressive impact. Fundación Si Argentina has over 3,000 volunteers across the country who address the realities of urban poverty. There are 520 students living in Fundación Si Argentina’s student housing centers, 1,147 people are supported on a nightly basis, more than 2,100 kids participate in its weekly programs and more than 400 food shelters are supported. Numerous Argentinians are getting consistent aid due to the tremendous work of this organization. 

Looking Ahead

Urban poverty in Argentina is a pressing issue that hinders the quality of life of millions of people. The struggle to access essential resources like food, health care, housing and education is compounded by an arduous labor market, leaving these people in a state of vulnerability. Nevertheless, efforts like those of Fundación Si Argentina provide a glimmer of hope. Individuals are working tirelessly to remedy these harsh realities and enable citizens to achieve improved standards of living.

– Agustín Pino
Photo: Unsplash

Education in Argentina

Argentina was the seventh most prosperous nation in the world just a century ago, according to Agnus Maddison’s historic incomes database. In fact, its per capita income in 1909 was 50 percent higher than Italy and 180 percent higher than Japan. “The gap between 2000 income and predicted economic success, based on 1909 income, is larger for Argentina than for any other country,” according to New York Times’ Economix. In other words, income in Argentina is sharply declining. Much of the nation’s economic trouble can be attributed to shortcomings in their education system. Argentina’s education minister, Esteban Bullrich, says, “We don’t want to accept that we’re doing badly at anything.” While many of Argentina’s student academic goals are statistically high, other aspects of their education system have proved to be weak. Here are 10 facts about education in Argentina.

10 Facts About Education in Argentina

  1. Argentina’s quality of life is among the highest in South America. It is rated number 55 worldwide for quality of life and 40 in entrepreneurship. Due to this, many students have easy access to an education.
  2. Argentina’s literacy rate is 98.1 percent – a five percent increase since the 80s. More Argentinians are reading at a higher level now than ever before. In comparison, that is 12 percent higher than the global average.
  3. Argentina’s school year runs about 200 days. Students are in school from March to December with a two-week break during July and breaks on national holidays such as Easter. In contrast, American school years tend to run only 180 days a year. The Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness found through their study that longer school years can benefit students greater than longer school days. Shortened summers prevent “summer slide-back,” a phenomenon in which students forget learned information during summer breaks.
  4. In 2005, 12.2 million students made up 30 percent of Argentina’s population. In the early 2000s an economic crisis had a severe impact on those enrolled in school. Primary level enrollment fell from 117.8 percent to 112.7 percent. Despite this, school is mandatory in the nation.
  5. School runs for just four hours a day, Monday through Friday, with a student either attending an 8:15- 12:15 session or a 13:00 to 17:15 session. In contrast, American schools average six and a half hours a day and schools in China run from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a two-hour lunch break. A study conducted by the Department of Education in Massachusetts found that longer school days can improve test scores by 4.7-10.8 percentage points
  6. As of 2016, Argentina has a secondary school enrollment rate of 90 percent, according to the World Bank. Secondary education is broken into a basic cycle of 3 years followed by a cycle of two to three years where students can study accounting, computer science, and other various specializations. Technical-vocational programs include 12-15 hours a week in workshops.
  7. Only 27 percent of students in Argentina finish their university studies. This gives the nation a drop-out rate of 73 percent – one of the highest in the world. Esteban Bullrich, the education minister says that only about half of students finish their secondary studies.
  8. The Minister of Education in Argentina refused César Alan Rodríguez, a student with down syndrome, his graduation certificate, arguing he had received an adaptive curriculum. Rodriguez was the only disabled student attending his school at the time. In response, he sued his school for discrimination of basis of disability. Argentina ruled in this case to start taking the education of disabled students seriously, creating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). CRPD is the first human rights treaty clearly stating all students have an equal right to education regardless of ability.
  9. A teacher’s gross salary in Argentina is $10,747 in American currency. This number is roughly a fifth of what teachers make in the United States. In contrast, Regional IT Managers in Argentina make $134,336 and Software Engineers make $55, 535 on average.
  10. Argentina’s Ministers of Education met at the G20 Summit on September 5th, 2018 to create an action plan. There the ministers pledged to keep up with societal and technological innovations, better equip teachers, “[promote] multiple and flexible pathways into lifelong education and training,” improve policies, and engage students. Furthermore, they discussed how to finance these goals in line with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda.

Like the rest of the world, education in Argentina is not perfect. Drop-out rates run high and school days run short. However, the nation is making a clear effect to improve the situation for students and educators across their country.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

According to the Buenos Aires Minister of Education Esteban Bullrich, 7,000 to 9,000 children aged one and a half months to three years will not be able to attend nursery school in 2014. This number has risen since last year, when 6,700 young children were unable to attend school and receive an education in Argentina.

Parents will either have to pay for a private school or search for other daycares that they are able to afford. Bullrich acknowledge that the Ministry was not able to accomplish and satisfy the expectations of the public.

The shortage of space in public schools and the “failures in the bureaucratic forms of information processing” caused 4,000 students to have to be moved to different schools farther away from their homes, Bullrich claims. This is an issue, particularly because there are no school buses in Argentina, so students have to walk or take some form of public transportation to school each morning.

Those families were initially told that there were vacancies for their students in schools, only to be made aware later that their students had to be removed from the lists.

Bullrich did however highlight that the recently developed online registration process was functioning properly “despite these mistakes.” He stated that although many students were unable to gain spots within the public schools, roughly 100,000 children were able to register and be placed. Statistically speaking, Bullrich says that the system was a success in regards to those who could be placed compared to those who could not.

Bullrich claims that since 2007 more spots have opened up in kindergartens, allowing 20 percent more students to gain an education in Argentina at a young age. There were approximately 45,956 vacancies in 2007 and currently there are 55,607 kindergarten vacancies in Buenos Aires.

The National Education Law and the City Constitution are butting heads regarding a student’s right to begin school. The National Education law states that school attendance is mandatory at the age of four, but the City Constitute claims that at 45 days old a child has the right to begin education.

The City Education Ministry recognizes that, “No government has achieved this so far.”

Rebecca Felcon

Sources: The Argentina Independent, Country Reports, Buenos Aires Herald
Photo: Carlo Shiller