The poverty level in Argentina reached 44.7% in the third quarter of 2023, according to a report by the Argentine Catholic University’s respected Argentine Observatory on Social Debt. The report also found that 9.6% of Argentines are destitute and almost 63% of children and teenagers are poor.
The director of the observatory Agustín Salvia said during a press conference on Monday that poverty numbers will continue to rise in 2024, although “not in an explosive way.”
“There is a consensus that something is being done very badly, and that needs to change,” Salvia said. “If this goes on, more people currently in the lower class will become poor, there will be more structural poverty, and people in extreme poverty and lower classes will be more dependent on social welfare.”
The report comes two days after President Alberto Fernández questioned the official poverty numbers published by the INDEC statistics bureau. Its latest report, published in September, found that four out of 10 Argentines live under the poverty line.
“I don’t think poverty is being measured correctly,” Fernández told news agency Noticias Argentinas during an interview published on Sunday. “If we had so much poverty, Argentina would be in flames.”
The observatory has been publishing its widely-regarded poverty reports since 2004. Its latest index measured socioeconomic indicators from the third quarter of 2023 and shows a small rise compared with the same period of 2022, when 43.1% of the population was poor and 8.1% destitute.
The index measures multidimensional poverty in urban areas.
The report also found that employment quality is at its lowest level since the index began in 2004: 8.8% of people of working age are unemployed and 24.3% are in an unstable underemployment situation.
Salvia said financial and social assistance programs will be key to avoid a greater increase in poverty and destitution, and added that welfare programs, known colloquially as “plans,” have helped slow the rise in poverty in a context of high inflation and employment instability.
While the INDEC index measures poverty only in terms of income, the UCA observatory also takes into account access to food, healthcare, housing, education, basic services, a healthy environment, employment and social security.
President Fernández said that “poverty is measured through a survey, and surveys have shown that they’re fallible.” He added that he is “afraid of people not telling the whole truth” when answering them.
Social leader Juan Grabois, who ran for president in representation of the left wing of the Unión por la Patria ruling coalition, answered Fernández’s statements in an open letter on Monday morning. He wrote that the measuring system has been the same since Fernández took office, and numbers have gotten objectively worse.
“You need to take responsibility for this. Argentina is in flames, Alberto… it’s just that we are used to it,” he wrote. “Argentina is not exploding, it’s imploding, it makes less noise, but people are bleeding inside.”
Grabois added that the existence of poor people with full-time registered jobs “is a new, terrible and unforgivable injustice because the government could solve it by increasing the minimum wage.”