Villa 31, in Buenos Aires City.

A new study out of the Argentine Catholic University’s Observatory of Social Debt will be published in a few days, and is set to reveal that roughly eight million people in Argentina are poor, and that six million of them — or one in every ten households — are affected by hunger.

In this study, the observatory sought to determine what they deemed the “structural poverty rate,” going beyond the surveyed subjects’ monthly income. In order to do so, it defined seven key indicators and concluded that people who lack access to at least three of them fall below this structural poverty line. The variables at play are: food security, health coverage, basic access to services such as water, livable housing, education, social security, and access to information. That is the case for eight million Argentines, according to the study. 

The reason for this change in methodology lies in the fact that the households’ income can significantly fluctuate in a relatively short period of time, something that can make them go back and forth between being above and below the official poverty line.

Observatory head, Agustín Salvia, illustrated the point with an example: “We can assume that a person may have a certain income because the government transfers it through a welfare program. That person stops being destitute, either because of that or because they may have gotten a temporary job. But tomorrow the program might collapse, or the person might lose the job because of the recession, and thus goes back into destitution or poverty. That person actually never stopped being poor, because they didn’t have a proper job,” he said. 

“No matter how many welfare programs are assigned to them, their quality of life will not improve,” he added. 

Salvia went on to say that the observatory’s methodology is not the one everyone should use to measure poverty rates, but that it does indicate the need for debate over what makes a person poor, in order to implement measurement schemes that can tackle poverty as it exists on the ground.

The same study indicated that six million Argentines, or one in 10 households, are affected by hunger. Salvia explained that in order to make the measurement, the observatory’s surveyors asked people if any member of their household experienced hunger for economic reasons, and if it happened more than once. However, he also pointed out that this doesn’t mean that the person can’t satisfy this need through other means such as soup kitchens, but shows that they can’t do it on their own.

“Zero poverty” was President Mauricio Macri’s campaign platform in 2015. Last year he admitted that accomplishing zero poverty in his four-year term would not be possible. However, Macri went on to say that, “we will no longer disrespect people telling them that there’s less poverty in Argentina than in Germany,” referencing a claim made by Cristina Kirchner in one of her speeches.