Social Welfare in Argentina
Overview of the Country
Argentina is a relatively large country in South America with the territory over 2.7 million square kilometers (Hedges 2015). The vast lands impress with their diversity – the high peaks of the Andes, magnificent glacial lakes, pampas and marshes. Despite the biological and geographical richness, the country has certain problems with water resources as there are only a few large rivers and many smaller rivers can be seen only in seasonal flows.
The population of the country is about 43 million people according to the 2015 census. The population growth rate is approximately 1 per cent per year. The life expectancy is 77 years and the literacy rate is 98%. Thus, it is possible to say that Argentina is a relatively prosperous country, especially in comparison with other nations in South America. Nevertheless, it is far from being perfect; and it has a number of significant problems in the social and economic sphere (Hedges 2015).
The economy of Argentina is based on rich natural resources, lucrative agricultural sector, and manufacturing (food products, vehicles, refinery products, and other). The nominal GDP in 2015 was $585.6 billion (World Bank 2016). The total amount of profits from the exports in 2015 was slightly more than $56 billion with soy and soy products occupying about the quarter of all the exported goods (World Bank 2016).
In the sphere of politics Argentina witnessed many difficult and turbulent periods, especially in the twentieth century. In 1930, the military coup d’?tat significantly damaged the economy of the country and marked the beginning of a painful decline (Lewis 2015). President Per?n, who came to power in 1946, managed to pay the foreign debt and significantly increase the employment, but his efforts did not influence the overall condition of the Argentinean economy. The country also suffered from the so-called Dirty War of 1974 – 1983, when due to terroristic actions of the government about 30 thousand people were killed or “disappeared” (Feitlowitz 2011). The first democratic president of the country after junta period, Ra?l Alfons?n, was elected in 1983. The period between 1998 and 2002 is called Argentine Great Depression, when the economy shrank by 28 per cent (Hedges 2015). The current president of Argentina is Mauricio Macri, the first democratically elected president, who does not belong to radical or peronist circles since the beginning of the twentieth century.
History of Social Welfare in Argentina
One of the most striking features of Argentinean welfare system is the absence of stability. The country saw peaks and downfalls, so did the welfare system. It would be correct to trace the history of official social welfare system in Argentina since the rise of the modern nation at the end of the nineteenth century. The first governments provided rather liberal economic policies that allowed the economy of Argentina to enjoy significant improvements that certainly influenced the social sphere. The government needed new labor force, so they promoted immigration and offered a number of benefits to people who came to Argentina. Yrigoyen, who was twice elected to the post of the President (from 1916 to 1922, and again from 1928 to 1930), conducted many important reforms in the social welfare system – he reduced working hours, introduced compulsory education and pensions (Lewis 2015). The changes significantly improved the life of lower social classes. However, the Infamous Decade of 1930-1943 made a devastating hit on the social welfare of the nation. The government faced huge unemployment caused by the Great Depression and did virtually nothing to improve the situation. It resulted in great social imbalance, when people fled to cities from rural region to search for jobs. As a result, the agriculture in Argentina suffered from relocation of resources. The only exception was Santa Fe Province, where the governor Luciano Molinas managed to keep the standards of regulations for child and female labor, just working hour regime. However, he ruled for a relatively short period, as the state government organized a military intervention into the province and dismissed him. During the first presidency of Per?n, the situation improved and many of social welfare reforms were pushed by the foundation of his wife Eva Per?n. The fluctuations continued when after a 1998-2002 crisis when the social sphere was boosted by the reforms of N?stor Kirchner and later his wife Christina Kirchner. They laid the foundation of contemporary social welfare system of Argentina that is based on four major aspects – the benefits for the unemployed and disabled, the payments in the sphere of retirement and pensions, and the so-called Reparto and RCI systems. The majority of social programs are universal, so they available to everyone who is applicable. They are divided into three tiers – the first two systems operate on pay-as-you-go method, and the last one related to pensions requires the choice between state or private funds. Pensions are paid out when males reach the age of 65 and females of 60 (Haverland 2009). Sickness and maternity benefits are also available, but they are funded by the employers, not the state.
Poverty in the Country and its Ramifications
Currently, the social welfare systems are regulated by Ministry of Work, Employment and Social Security, Social Security Administration, Social Protection Project, and other organs. Unfortunately, even their joint activities are not sufficient to eliminate poverty in the country. The estimates of the number of people living below the poverty line are very different. The National Statistics and Censuses Institute suggest it is about 32%, whereas some other organizations name the figures from 15 to 29% (World Bank 2016). In 2010, an Argentinean was considered to be living below the poverty line if he or she got less than 95 USD per month. Poverty in the country is especially high in the northern regions, such as Northwest or Chaco region.
Therefore, with such high rates of poverty, the majority of social programs are aimed at improving the situation. Special attention is paid to children from poor families. The Universal Childhood Entitlement gives US$46 a month per child and includes the deposit of 20% of the check in a savings account to be used when a child is enrolled to school (Haverland 2009).
However, poverty has a very negative impact on the Argentinean society. One of the most tragic ramifications is high mortality rates among the poorest social groups, especially among children. In 2015, the infant mortality rate per 1000 births was 11 deaths (World Bank 2016). The crude death rate is slightly less, but it is still far from the figures of the developed European countries. Racial discrimination is also connected with poverty as indigenous communities have always been the poorest social groups. They live in the worst city areas, often highly polluted, and experience great difficulties in finding jobs. They also constitute a high percentage of rural population. The Social Redistribution Program launched in 2008, which aimed at improving the conditions of rural inhabitants, slightly relieved the burden of the poorest groups (Haverland 2009). It also improved the healthcare system in the rural areas. Unfortunately, little success is seen in combating drug abuse and prostitution that are also among the most significant repercussions of poverty in Argentina.