Argentina's poverty rate in the second half of 2018 rose to 32 percent – a rise of six percentage points from the same period the previous year – with 6.7 percent of citizens living in a state of extreme poverty.
The data was released by the INDEC national statistics bureau on Thursday.
The headline figure is significant rise after a year of economic turmoil. For example, in the second half of 2017, poverty stood at 25.7 percent according to INDEC, rising to 27.3 percent in the first half of 2018. In the second half of 2016, the rate stood at 30.3 percent, according to official data.
Thursday's latest data, based on INDEC's Permanent Household Survey (EPH), indicates that 12.96 million people in Argentina are now considered poor. During the last calendar year, some 2.6 million people fell below the poverty line.
In a worrying detail highlighted by La Nación, the number of poor children aged between 0 and 14 years increased from 39.7 percent in the latter party of 2017 to 46.5 percent at the end of 2018.
The news completes a doom-laden run of economic headlines for President Mauricio Macri and his government, with a crucial presidential election due in October. However, the Casa Rosada is hoping the economy will improve in the lead up to the vote.
The bureau, which measures poverty by income, concluded that 8.9 million people in the 31 largest urban centres in Argentina were living below the poverty line. INDEC does not measure poverty in rural areas, limiting its scope only to main cities.
Poverty has risen in Argentina after a year of economic turmoil, in which GDP contracted by 2.5 percent and inflation skyrocketed to 47.6 percent – its highest recorded tally since 1991. Meanwhile, the national currency, the peso, devalued hugely in a currency crisis, losing more than half of its value. The subsequent fall in purchasing power – with inflation outstripping wage increases – has left many Argentines on the breadline.
Unemployment at present stands at 9.1 percent, but it is expected to rise in double digits later this year. Inflation is showing no sign of stopping its meteoric rise, with price increases totalling 6.8 percent in the first two months of 2018.
At the data was released, a group of trade union activists held a demonstration outside the doors of INDEC's headquarters, expressing their discontent with the government's economic policies. The protesters handed out 500 kilogrammes of free bread, seeking to emphasise the hardship facing Argentines.
Carolina Stanley, Minister of Health and Social Development, said Thursday the government "thought we could lower inflation faster, and clearly, inflation impacts the poverty figure."
"We reiterate that we will continue to prioritise the reduction of poverty," she added.
INDEC's data indicates that 23.4 percent of households were below the poverty line at the end of 2018. Of citizens, 6.7 percent live in extreme poverty, up from 4.8 percent the previous year.
Earlier this week, the Catholic University of Argentina's (UCA) Social Debt Observatory said that in 2018 the sectors hit hardest by the economic turmoil were the working class and the lower middle classes.