Anxiety is on the rise as Argentina grabbles with unstable unemployment rates. According to the findings of a recent joint survey from Ibarómetro and the Center for Labor and Development Studies (CETyD) at the University of San Martín, almost half of all Argentines are scared they might soon lose their job.
Despite Indec’s latest report published a couple of weeks ago, which indicated a 0.8 percent improvement in unemployment in 2016’s third quarter compared to its second (8.5 percent down from 9.3 percent), public opinion and the fall in economic activity don’t seem to reflect the optimism found in the numbers.
The CETyD survey certainly reveals some telling views from the Argentine people on Macri’s first year in government and the levels of public uncertainty. Firstly, perhaps the most serious finding is that about 45 percent of those currently employed in Argentina feel that their jobs are in danger, that is to say they are afraid that they could lose their job at any time. Within that, the breakdown shows that the feeling of uncertainty is higher amongst young people between the ages of 18 and 30 (64 percent) and those who work “in black” (55.2 percent).
To add to this bleak picture, over seven out of ten citizens responded that they considered that at this time they would have a low or zero chance of getting a job if they had to look for one. Almost half also think that the job search is now more difficult than a year ago, whereas only 12.1 percent think they would have better prospects of finding a job now than a year ago.
To put it bluntly: an overwhelming majority of the population feels that finding work would have been easier, or at least the same, during the Kirchner administration. And the pessimism doesn’t stop there, as only a quarter of people think that unemployment will drop in the next three months.
So where does all of this uncertainty come from? One explanation could be that more than half of those questioned – 51.2 percent – reported having been fired or having witnessed a relative or close friend being let go from their job in the last three months.
Consulting firm Tendencias Económicas have logged more than 180,000 layoffs so far this year.
La Nación asked economist José Luis Blanco, director of Tendencias Económicas, for some answers about Argentina’s unemployment situation, particularly in light of Indec’s last report. According to Blanco, it is not possible to compare one quarter with its predecessor due to issues of seasonal variation, so it would not actually be accurate to claim that there was truly a drop in unemployment this year. The economist instead proposed looking at the figures from the same quarter in 2015, which would suggest that unemployment has risen in the last year (however one must take into account the widespread suspicions of blatant inaccuracies within Indec’s data sets up until last year.)
Agustín Salvia, director of the Observatory of Social Debt Argentina, has also shared his take on the latest statistics: “the supposed improvements that have been observed unfortunately can only be explained as part of a statistical error or a seasonal effect that has not been made clear. There is no evidence that proves there has been any improvement in the labor market. We may have already hit rock bottom, but by no means can we say that a significant recovery in the demand for jobs is taking place yet.”
The current administration continues asking for patience. This may have registered as a more reasonable request during Macri’s first quarter when gas bills rose by 500 percent, but with an estimated 2,343,000 people in Argentina being unemployed or underemployed, how much longer will the country lend its patience before demanding to see results?