A new study conducted by the United Nations Development Program (UNPD) indicates that the teen pregnancy rate in Argentina is considerably high compared to that of other countries in the Americas, Asia and Europe with similar socio-economic profiles.
According to the study, in Argentina, a child is born to a woman under age 20 every five minutes. Teenage pregnancies — those that befall women between the ages of 15 and 19 — account for 54.4 of every 1,000 births. This rate is incredibly high, given that the rate of teenage pregnancy in countries with similar socio-economic profiles averages at 12.7 for every 1,000 births and does not seem to be declining.
The issue of teen pregnancy in Argentina is a gateway into exploring other related issues that are prevalent in the country, such as a lack of informative sex education. According to a study conducted by the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) last year, only half of teenagers in the Buenos Aires area use condoms during sex, and even less than that number were using them correctly.
According to local outlet Clarín, the study brings to light the issues that these women face once they have become pregnant. The lack of sex education and support that women have in more rural, less economically privileged areas leads to a large number of these girls dropping out of school and jobs to focus on motherhood. A large group of Latin Americans aged 15 to 24 do not attend school or have jobs; they are referred to as ninis, short for ni estudia ni trabaja, or “neither studies nor works,” referring to youth who are neither employed nor in school. The World Bank reported that three out of four of that group are women and within this group, the majority are taking care of their children, which becomes a job in and of itself. This phenomena of uneducated, unemployed youth is also on the rise.
Additionally, in a country where it is still illegal to obtain an abortion, there are still an estimated 500,000 that take place every year, according to local health authorities. The safety and effectiveness of these abortions are highly variable on a case by case basis, and are contributing factors to complications and mortality rates due to pregnancy.
According to Clarín, this study not only serves as a warning about the social issues that Argentina and Latin America on a whole face but also as an advocacy for focusing attention on Argentines from a lower social class that do not have access to the same opportunities as Argentines from a higher social class.
The UN study shows how a phenomena like income equality could continue to influence a phenomenon like teenage pregnancy, since girls from lower income backgrounds do not have as easy access to sex education or contraception as a girl from a higher income bracket. To solve these existing social problems, it is just as much about closing the gaps between different social classes as it is about solving the problems within them. And as the UN report indicates, while certain issues that have showed improvement, other phenomena, such as teen pregnancy, school dropout rates and income inequality remain the same or have gotten worse.