With a capital that’s known as the Paris of South America, Argentina is famous for its sophisticated cities and appreciation for the finer things in life. It’s a member of the G20, an international forum exclusive to the governments and central bank governors of 20 countries. The UN Human Development Index ranks Argentina as having very high human development, making it the only Latin American country in this category besides Chile.
But, behind the glitter of a cosmopolitan mecca, disease, starvation, subpar education and child labor affect its poorest population. Almost 50 percent of Argentina’s children live in poverty. That’s 10 percent higher than the overall number of Argentinians in poverty and 9 percent higher than the global number of children in poverty during 2016. Here are three critical ways poverty in Argentina affects its children.
Poverty-related diseases are on the rise.
Poverty in provinces of Argentina such as Chaco is so severe that residents do not have access to necessities like running water, electricity, and plumbing. Cardiovascular disease is the national leading cause of death, but disease, malnutrition, and infection are disproportionate among the impoverished rural population. Two thousand children died in Chaco between 2010 and 2014 because they did not have clean water, food, and medical care.
The Misiones province, with the highest percentage of children, has the worst ratio of doctors to residents at 1.2-to-1000—a grim statistic that augurs poorly for the children.
The education deficit is growing.
As poverty levels in Argentina rise each year, children are dropping out of school to support their families. Although Argentina has one of the highest net enrollment rates in South America, dropout rates are high at both primary and secondary levels.
It’s important to note that experts blame other factors in addition to poverty, including low student motivation and structural flaws. Since the 1960s, Argentina’s education system has been decentralized. With no national standard, educational infrastructure, student enrollment and graduation rates fluctuate regionally. Disparities are starkest between poor rural and rich urban regions.
Child labor is rampant and poorly regulated.
When children start working, many fall into insalubrious work conditions. Child prostitution is common along the border countries of Paraguay and Bolivia and in the poor northern provinces. In cities, children turn to begging, dumpster scavenging and menial labor. Without education, they are trapped and exploited, unable to qualify for better work.
Argentina entered the 20th century among the 10 richest countries, a contender for global superpower status. However, a complicated history of political upheaval and economic mismanagement since 1930 tipped the country into a spiral of hyperinflation and growing poverty. It’s become a country of booms and busts—a cycle that makes it a unique breeding ground for poverty alongside luxury.
With half of its children in poverty, it’s arguable that Argentina’s youth has been hit hardest. The government has enacted several programs to improve its education system and stop child labor, but lack of consensus and unwieldy national and local administration preclude effective enforcement. Argentina has a vibrant culture and much potential, but until its government facilitates coordination across programs and regions, the injustices it seeks to remedy will likely continue.
Olivia Amici is a hustler who has been writing short stories for fun since high school and editing scientific papers since moving to Concepcion, Chile, for a gap year. Before then, she paid her way through community college while working as an event coordinator and a dental assistant. Once she returns to the States, she is excited to complete her degree in biology at University of Florida. In ten years, she would like to be working as a medical research editor and own an African Gray Parrot and a house in San Diego.