Wednesday
October 18, 2017
Friday, June 16, 2017

Old problems, young victims

If President Mauricio Macri’s 2015 campaign slogan of “zero poverty” was severely challenged by last year’s data (both official and unofficial) showing a third of the population below subsistence levels and on the rise, the bar for achieving social justice has been considerably raised by the recent UNICEF figures showing socio-economically deprived children to be much closer to a half than a third of the total — a dark cloud hanging over the future generation (which will simultaneously see those over retirement age almost doubling from 10.4 to 19.3 percent of the population by mid-century). A demographic cleft stick because while the number of people of working age for every person aged over 65 will be halved from six to three, those entering the labour market with the home and school backgrounds permitting aspiration to a quality job will also be halved. At both ends the state will need to provide extra funding down the road to maintain the pension system and to prevent child poverty from mushrooming further — even if the Macri administration’s talk of maintaining social programmes despite the pressures for austerity were finally to be honoured (the latest news concerns cuts in the non-contributory pensions for the disabled), it would not be enough.

The projection of a rising child destitution into the future acquires all the more momentum when looking at how structural poverty has taken root in recent decades. It is relatively easy to take people out of cyclical poverty — thus an upturn in Brazil would suffice in many cases (even if there are also numerous families still precariously above the poverty line which would sink below it if stagflation were to persist). But the vast majority of low-income households are trapped in structural poverty — if we consider that only once in the last decade, in 2011, did unofficial estimates (as opposed to the single-digit boasts of the previous administration’s INDEC statistics bureau) show poverty slightly below a quarter of the population, we may assume that roughly three-quarters of the current impoverished fall into the category of structural poverty. Only around a fifth of families are numerous enough to place a third of the population in poverty and it is precisely in this core group where poverty has become hereditary. The projections for the future are alarming — especially when considering that while around a fifth of those below the poverty line are destitute overall, this rises to almost a quarter (1.3 out of 5.6 million) in the case of children.

One of this government’s favourite phrases is that “every day we are a bit better off” but to make this more than wishful thinking, they will first have to overcome data which every day are a little bit worse.

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