More than six out of 10 children in Argentina are living in poverty, according to a new report by the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA).
The study from UCA’s Observatorio de la Deuda Social (Social Debt Observatory) – which gained prominence during the administration of former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as official statistics became unreliable – also found that 43.8 percent of people living in Argentina were living below the poverty line between July and October 2021, with 8.8 percent considered destitute.
By way of comparison, the INDEC national statistics bureau’s most recent report surveying urban centres nationwide concluded that poverty stood at 40.6 percent.
Nevertheless, the UCA figure represents a slight drop on the previous year, when its experts found that poverty – exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic – was reaching 44.7 percent of the population in October, 2020.
Argentina is facing a "crisis and stagnation in a framework of growing inequalities," the report concludes.
Notably, the report warned that poverty would have risen to 48.9 percent without the support of social welfare programmes and emergency payments put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. During 2021, 33.8 percent of households received some assistance from the government, according to the report.
Underlining the importance of government aid, the Observatory’s Director Agustín Salvia wrote that “social plans are "fundamental to prevent destitution from skyrocketing," noting that without support, the rate of those living in extreme poverty would rise to 18 percent.
According to the survey, between the third quarter of 2021 and the same period in 2020, poverty fell from 44.7 percent to 43.8 percent, while unemployment fell from 14.2 percent to 9.1 percent.
Analysis also revealed that unemployment increased from 10.6 per cent in 2019 to 14.2 per cent in 2020, mostly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The report said this had created a “discouragement effect” among unemployed people, who saw their chances of finding work had decreased.
Salvia, who headlead the study, said that employment in Argentina is recovering more in the informal sector after the economic disruption of 2020, but that in turn inflation is hitting purchasing -power hard.
He observed an "impoverishment of the middle classes and with their capacity to save" as a direct impact.
The study also measures self-perception; that is, how respondents view their own economic situation. Of the households surveyed, 43.8 percent declared that their income was not enough to cover their basic expenses.
Impact on kids
Worryingly, UCA’s experts warned that the youngest sector of the population was the only one to have seen a rise in poverty from last year.
The report estimates that in 2021, 64.9 percent of children and adolescents are living in households with incomes below the poverty line, with 14.7 percent living of homes considered to be in extreme poverty.
The previous year, poverty had measured 44.7 percent, according to UCA, a figure tamped down because of the impact of measures such as the Emergency Family Income (IFE) payment, which reached some nine million people.
Salvia warned that it will take Argentina several years to return to its previous poverty level of 2017, when the indicator stood at 28 percent.