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Argentina: decent work as a goal for development

There are signs of employment recovery in Argentina, but a lot remains to be done, outlined tripartite representatives and the ILO who signed a Memorandum of Understanding expressing their support to the launch of a National Decent Work Programme.

Article | 16 June 2004

GENEVA - Linking economic, labour and social policies in a better way to create decent jobs in Argentina is one of the priorities identified in a tripartite agreement signed by government, worker and employer delegates to the 92nd annual International Labour Conference of the ILO.

"The majority of people in Argentina are looking for a job in the formal sector and a social security coverage", says a memorandum of understanding on the tripartite social partners' decision to support a National Decent Work Program with technical assistance from the International Labour Office (ILO).

The agreement was signed at a special event of the International Labour Conference by the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security of Argentina, Carlos Tomada, the country's worker representative, Rodolfo Daer, its employer representative, Daniel Funes de Rioja, and ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

"We are leaving the state of emergency but we still have major problems to face", said the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security of Argentina, Carlos Tomada at the signing ceremony. "The dilemma and future challenge now is how to improve productivity and employment simultaneously", he added.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said, that he was "optimistic about the future", and although there were "still problems to be solved, a big step forward has been taken". Mr. Somavia stressed that in Argentina the concept of decent work has become "government policy" and positioned the country as a forerunner of an international consensus to make this concept a "global objective".

New tools for the fight against unemployment

The agreement represents a new step in the fight for a better social and economic situation in Argentina, which is still suffering from the crisis that began at the end of 2001. Since 2002, the ILO has been supporting efforts and policies to improve working and living conditions in the country with technical cooperation activities.

Through its Program on Crisis Response and Reconstruction, the ILO launched an immediate plan of action "Enfrentando los retos al trabajo decente en la crisis", and started the AREA program this year to reactivate employment in Argentina with the support of the Italian government.

According to data published at the event, unemployment rose from a low of 6.5 per cent in 1991 to more than 20 per cent during the crisis. Poverty increased from 25 per cent in 1991 to 52 per cent in 2001, and while the highest income was 20 times higher than the lowest in 1991, the difference was 49 times in 2001.

These indicators improved over the last months, particularly unemployment which declined according to available data from 20,4 to 14,5 per cent.

Mr. Funes de Rioja said the country "could not afford to have 50 per cent of the population living in poverty" and insisted on the need "to re-establish a culture of work".

Mr. Daer, the workers' representative, said that despite signs of improvement in the employment picture this "does not benefit the most disadvantaged, the poor, those who cannot count on a decent job". The Argentine trade union leader added that in a situation of crisis "decent work stabilizes the social order".

The memorandum acknowledges that "the crisis in Argentina has lead to levels of unemployment and poverty rates that have never been registered before". It proposes two lines of action within the National Decent Work Program.

The first is about political integration. According to the document, the goal of job creation can be reached through the coordination of economic (monetary, fiscal, exchange, industrial and trade) and social policies (education, social protection, health).

The second is about policy integration at the ministerial level and decentralized implementation of strategies, including employment and training policies, regularisation of undocumented work, elimination of child labour, rising incomes from work and the extension of social security coverage.

Decent work was established as a political priority in Argentina at the national, provincial and local level by a new labour law which was passed in March 2004.