Social protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: Argentina

Type Report
Title Social protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: Argentina
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
The concern for the many aspects of social protection has been present along the Argentinean history. By
the beginning of the 20th century, the “social question” and the protection of workers became mayor
issues in the context of an agriculture export-led model of development which generated massive
discontent. Since it came to power in the 1940s, Peronism focused on the rights of formal workers and
the strengthening of contributory social security. However, the political and socio-economic crises that
followed reduced the attention placed on social protection. Interest only reappeared recently, embedded
within debates on poverty, vulnerability and the protection of informal workers.
A milestone in the severe deterioration of the living conditions of the Argentinean population
—a trend experienced throughout recent history— was the ascendance of the military dictatorship that
ruled the country from the mid-1970s until 1983. However, even during the transition to democracy,
several critical events occurred: first, hyper-inflationary processes hit the country in 1989 and 1990;
and second, a political and institutional —as well as socio-economic— crisis took place between 2001
and 2002. As a consequence, income poverty experienced steep up and downs, which, during the
1980s and the early years of the new century, derived into the impoverishment of middle-income
sectors. The long-term effects of the crises included both the worsening of the labour conditions of
workers —with rising levels of informality— and the increasing gaps in living conditions among
provinces. Also, the endurance of inequality is a manifestation of the ongoing structural problems that
the country has had in terms of economic development and the tax system.
Social policy has been transformed by the occurrence of these crises and the changes
introduced to the economy. As a result, two main social protection models might be identified during
the last two decades in Argentina. Since the beginning of the 1990s and until the 2001 crisis, social
protection combined the increasing privatisation of social security, the decentralisation of the
administration of health and education services onto provincial governments and the proliferation of
mean-tested actions for poverty-alleviation. Since 2001 onwards, a second social protection model has
been on the making. This consists on the mounting control regained by the central State in the
management of the pension funds, the education and health system. Furthermore, poverty-alleviation
policies have been unified and social security has become progressively universal through the
combination of contributory and non-contributory instruments.

Related studies