Argentine poverty reached 41.7% in 2023, expected to rise

Average salaries in the country do not cover the total basic food basket

Poverty in Argentina hit 41.7% during the second half of 2023 — affecting 19.4 million people — according to a report by the National Institute for Statistics and Census (INDEC) released on Wednesday.

The number is 1.6 points higher than in the first half of that year. The INDEC highlighted that 58.4% of children under 14 are poor, according to the latest figures.

The poverty figure is the last that reflects former President Alberto Fernández’s administration. Fernández took office in 2019, when poverty was 35.5% according to the INDEC. Three months after that, the COVID-19 pandemic started and poverty surged, reaching 42% in the second half of 2020. It started to drop in the second half of 2021, although the recovery stopped one year later, and Fernández’s administration ended with 41.7% of Argentines living in poverty.

Destitution, on the other hand, affected 11.9% of the Argentine population, a growth of 2.6 points compared to the first half of 2023. The INDEC considers that a family is “destitute” when their monthly income is less than the basic food basket. A family is considered to be in poverty if they earn less than the basic food basket plus services, known as the total basic basket.

Poverty is expected to keep rising, at least in the short term. A projection by the Argentine Catholic University’s respected Social Debt Observatory published in February estimated that poverty surged to 57.4% in January, as a consequence of December’s 54% devaluation of the peso. It would be the highest poverty number since 2004, when the observatory began publishing reports, amid widespread economic deregulation and price hikes.

The observatory projected a 60% poverty rate for March 2024. 

Meanwhile, Argentines’ income has not kept apace. Formal monthly salaries averaged AR$555,269 (US$616 at the official rate, US$546 at the MEP rate) in January, according to the Labor, Employment and Social Security Secretariat. For context, Argentina’s bread line, the total basic basket for a family of four, is AR$596,823 (US$661 at the official rate, US$587 at the MEP rate), meaning that on average, registered workers can’t afford to escape poverty. Moreover, according to the INDEC, salaries in January increased by 16.4% whereas inflation surged by 20.6% that month.

Other measures of Javier Milei’s administration are expected to take a toll on Argentina’s poor. Social movements have not been getting any food from the newly created Human Capital Ministry, the government organism in charge of delivering food to the country’s 44,000 soup kitchens in impoverished neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund’s Western Hemisphere director Rodrigo Valdés said that the Milei administration should “stress quality, not quantity” of fiscal adjustment in the country. He highlighted the need for the government to support the vulnerable, so that “the burden of the adjustment does not fall disproportionately on working families.”


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