Photo via La Nación

During the first nine months of 2016, the poverty rate went up from 29 percent to 32.9 percent, according to figures from the latest study from the Argentine Catholic University (UCA). These numbers mean “an increase of 1.5 million people who fell below the poverty line in that period, which is now roughly 13 million,” the study says.

Moreover, out of those 13 million people, the number who live below the destitution line increased by “about 600,000 people, meaning that the number went from 5.4 percent in the second trimester to 6.9.” “The impact of the devaluation, the economic policies aimed at reducing inflation, the adverse international context and the lack of public and private investment would have generated a critical scenario,” the study adds.

In a press conference held to announce the study’s results, head of the UCA’s Observatory of Social Debt — the entity that conducts it — Agustín Salvia said that “even though the effects [of the above] were likely much stronger during the first semester of 2016, the situation would not likely have improved in the second part.”

Agustín Salvia. Photo via: Juan Lopez
Agustín Salvia. Photo via: Juan Lopez

In its last study, the institution claimed that 32.6 percent of Argentines lived below the poverty line, while 6.3 percent of them were destitute.

The numbers of UCA’s Observatory of Social debt are widely trusted. In fact, they were used as an index by various media outlets and politicians when the Fernández de Kirchner administration stopped the official statistics agency Indec from publishing official poverty numbers in 2014 because – in words of then-Economy Minister Axel Kiciloff – they were “stigmatizing.”

Back then, the Cristina Kirchner administration assured that during the second semester of 2013 the destitution rate was roughly 1 percent, while the poverty was at 4 percent. These rates came from comparing the monthly income of the population with a total basket of goods (which establishes the poverty line) of AR$6.56 per day. Needless to say it was impossible to subsist with that little money. The baskets projected by unions, universities and NGOs were roughly 3 times more expensive at the time. At that moment, UCA’s study indicated that the poverty rate was 27.5 percent, while 5.5 of the total were under the destitution line.

When the Macri administration took office, Indec’s new authorities went back to conducting their own study and in September 2016 announced the agency’s first official numbers in years: 32.2 percent of Argentines lived below the poverty line, a difference of barely 0.4 percent with the numbers UCA reported for the same period. Indec is set to publish its own numbers for the third quarter of 2016 on March 23.