Argentina slider — 26 March 2012


Julia Hones

Editors note:  The author was born and raised in Argentina and returns each year to visit.


After getting on the train in Constitucion, Buenos Aires, I make myself comfortable to watch a reality that has not changed. A woman carries a sleeping baby and hands out a piece of paper where we read she needs money to feed her children. Begging has been part of the national landscape for decades, and it is not rare to watch unattended kids distributing stamps and asking for money in return. Giving these kids money has always entailed a moral dilemma because, most likely, they are sent by adults who exploit them. Giving them money means perpetuating this exploitation. These kids are forced to face all the dangers of the street. Many of them escaped from homes where they felt unsafe.

The argentine government takes pride in the Universal Assignment (allowance) per child. According to a bill created in 2009 by President Cristina Kirchner the system ensures that all unemployed women or those making less than the minimum salary get a specific amount of money every month for each kid they have. The only requirements to obtain this allowance are to show proof of vaccinations and school attendance. The adult responsible for the kid gets 270 pesos per month (67 dollars) for each child. In May 2011, five months before Cristina Kirchner’s re-election, the regulations were changed so that women started receiving the allowance when they were twelve weeks pregnant.

This system, however, has many pitfalls.

There is no monitoring to ensure that the money is invested in the children who are supposed to receive the benefit. There are no social workers to ensure that these kids are growing in a safe environment. Cases of neglect and domestic violence may be overlooked. If, for example, a kid is born to parents who are drug-addicts there is no guarantee that the money will be used for the child’s well-being.

Many indigenous communities in Salta and Jujuy have no access to food, so increasing the family income does not fix their nutritional deficiencies. The allowance is unlikely to keep up with the inflation rate, so it is not a feasible plan in the long-term. Bear in mind that the president of Argentina increased her salary one-hundred percent over the last two years.

The system conveys the message that only women who have kids will be assisted by the government, spreading the notion that they must reproduce in order to get help.

Getting a monthly allowance for every child is a short-term solution and may perpetuate the problems that should be eradicated: unemployment, poverty, lack of education and birth control. The more children these families have, the more money they will be able to receive from the government. The benefit is assigned for up to a number of five kids per family.

According to a recent study by the Observatory of Basic Education that surveyed 550 schools and interviewed 571 principals and 951 teachers, there is no positive impact on school attendance. The requirement of attendance did not prevent the principals from signing the paperwork needed to obtain the benefits. In other words, not attending school did not prevent them from getting the allowance. Hence, the Universal Assignment may have helped President Kirchner to win the elections, but it is not having a meaningful effect on the education of these kids. For details on this study, you can visit their website.
Allowances should be attached to attainable responsibilities by those who receive it. There are ways of dealing with poverty that can have long-term effects such as providing training programs and workshops to help people get better job opportunities, guiding parents to find jobs, allocating them to employers after appropriate screenings for drugs and alcohol, providing small loans to start small business and fostering partnerships with organizations and institutions. The main goal of these plans should be to achieve independence and self-sufficiency. If cases of drug addiction are identified, programs of rehabilitation should be strongly encouraged. Classes on birth control and peaceful resolution of conflicts may help people make responsible decisions. By giving away money the government feeds a “culture of begging”. It is necessary to help people help themselves and each other. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”


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(16) Readers Comments

  1. Me encanto tu publicacion. Es absolutamente certero. Lastima que desde el gobierno,las cosas siempre andan barbaras. No resuleven los problemas desde la raiz.Estos chicos no tienen futuro en realidad.

  2. Comparto la opinión de que la falta de supervisión y fiscalización de la entrega de este subsidiio impide que sea bien utilizado, es decir que vaya en directo beneficio de los niños. Muy bueno la publicación.

  3. The Universal Assignment is probably one of the few reasonable installments of the K government, I find it hard to critizise a measure aimed to halt starvation among children. There are so many things going down the tube here in Argentina at the moment – sustained run-away inflation, shock-measures against importers, rampant corruption – that Universal Assignment appears quite reasonable.

  4. Reasonable? It is part of their corruption. It helps them to get more votes, but it will not eradicate starvation. It is not well implemented if it doesn´t have long-term goals to encourage the people to become self-sufficient.

    • No doubt about that, but one has to be realistic with regards to Argentina; this country will not become Sweden anytime soon. Malnurished children can not be accepted in any country and albeit that Universal Assignment may produce clientelism, we are better off with it. It worries me much more that scumbags like vice president Boudou steals 50m USD without any repercussion, that is the sort of perverted “leadership” that dooms this nation, not feeding children.

      • Jonas. Did you read my article? We have no evidence that the money is used to feed hungry children. The government does nothing to monitor that the money is used to feed children. As you say, it is clientelism. If you want to ensure that kids in Argentina are well nourished you have to make sure that the money is spent nourishing the children. Besides, the rate of of births is increasing because kids are seen as a way of making money, so they are worsening the problems, instead of fixing them. If they REALLY wanted to feed children, they would train parents on how to cook a cheap nutritious meals and they would monitor this closely. Giving away money is not a guarantee that kids are well fed and taken care of. Communities in Salta and Jujuy that have no access to food still have no access to food.

        • “Jonas. Did you read my article? We have no evidence that the money is used to feed hungry children.”

          Well, I happen to have such evidence, based on personal experience. Believe me, a lot of kids are fed through this program (and a lot of money is stolen too, but still it is worth it).

          • Let’s see this evidence based upon experience then please…

        • The AUH consists of paying $ 270 per month per child. This amount is paid 80 % directly and the remaining 20 % will be removed once a year , where it is demonstrated that the child attended school and meet health checks through the National Book social security , health and education .

  5. I never said I was against feeding children.

  6. I know that some kids may benefit from it, but it is not UNIVERSAL if it is not done properly. Their primary purpose is to get votes. Over the years I have heard that “as long as they do something, their corruption can be tolerated.” So people in Argentina vote for the same corruption over and over again because “at least they are doing something.” The result is that they are not eradicating poverty; they are perpetuating it. I would like to know what the future of those kids-and this society- is going to be like but long-term plans or strategies don’t matter in Argentina.

    • It is just that I can not, with the best of my abilities, understand how Argentina could possibly have a brighter future if its kids arent well nurished.

  7. Si no entendi mal, vivis fuera de Argentina y volves una vez x año al pais a visitar… desde ese lugar me parece q es sumamente complicado opinar. No se si estaras enterada pero la AUH depende de una contraprestacion de los que la reciben: tener los controles medicos al dia y concurrir a las escuelas. Espero te informes mejor antes de escribir desde los preconceptos tan trillados del mainstream de derechas.
    otro concepto sumamente desagradable es el que propones q como son lasmujeres las que reciben ayuda, se convierten en procreadoras solo para recibir la ayuda. Te cuento que hace 2 semanas se condeno al diario Clarin por ese titular que pone a las mujeres pobres como incautas y deseperadas por como vos decis 67 dlls. Realmente tus conceptos y tus maneras de pensar, dan asco.

  8. Estuve leyendo todos los comentarios y estoy de acuerdo con mi primera opinion. Estoy de acuerdo con el articulo de Julia Hones. Saben por que? Porque mis padres tienen mas de 80 anios y yo ya vivi la mitad de sus vidas. Argentina no cambio nada en decadas. Siempre el mismo clientelismo y populismo para asegurarse el sillon.Mienten demasiado .Mas alla si es o no cierto que las mujeres se embarazan mas o mennos por un sueldito estupido. Hones tiene razon qu esolo son paliativos .A largo plazo,nada.NADA.

  9. Y no agregue a mi anterior post que yo tambien hace unos anios no vivo alla. Pero, las cosas se las ve mucho peor que nunca. Para que alimentan a ninos y los ves en la calle? El sistema educativo esta destrozado. Es un circo. Argentina debe tener una mirada abierta al mundo, poner la educacion una prioridad y generar trabajo. Saben porque? Porque la educacion debe garantizar el trabajo y con eso se programa una familia y se la alimenta. Con burdas soluciones, la Argentina jamas saldra del fondo del mar.

  10. El problema del clientelismo político y la corrupción es un acoso a la sociedad toda. Pero lo mas grave es que esos niños no sean favorecidos por todos estos subsidios sino que sirvan solo para que continue la misma situación -falta de preparación para conseguir trabajo de sus madres para su subsistencia y educación e integración a la sociedad en que están viviendo logrando una dignidad, que no les es permitida, ya que siguen y seguirán viviendo de la mendicidad y la ignorancia. Y esos niños seguirán la forma de vida de sus madres in eternum, si la ayuda no es encarada de una manera mas controlada y completa.

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