COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 25 (En Español)
Due to the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization – WHO, the Argentinian Executive established the Preventive and Compulsory Social Isolation – ASPO (by its acronym in Spanish) through the Decree of Need and Urgency 297, on March 19, 2020. When the decree establishing the ASPO measure was issued, the current Government was in office for three months, as it had been in power since December 10, 2019.
The ASPO measure is still in force and has been extended by new decrees. However, due to the fact that the epidemiological situation is not the same within all Argentinian territory, some provinces are under Social, Preventive and Mandatory Distancing – DISPO (by its Spanish acronym), in order to establish a new normal, as soon as possible.
The ASPO measure aims to provide health care to the population and to safeguard the health system, so that all people can be served, but it has brought socio-economic complications for those who have been deprived of their income. Because of this, the Federal Executive branch has taken different economic measures.
One of the most important programs, because of its scope and target, was the creation of the “Emergency Family Income” – IFE (by its Spanish acronym), established by National Decree 310 of March 23. The IFE constitutes a non-contributory monetary income (equivalent to more than half of a minimum living wage) that looks to compensate in part for the decrease or loss of income of the families most affected by the ASPO measure. Indeed, it is the most far-reaching economic measure in these current times, as it covers almost nine million workers, who are part of the informal economy. In this sense, the IFE is especially addressed to households conformed by informal workers, unemployed workers, and workers with precarious labor insertion.
Through resolution 8 of March 30, 2020, the Social Security Secretariat – SSS (by its Spanish acronym) approved complementary regulations in this respect and authorized the National Social Security Administration – ANSES (by its Spanish acronym) to administer, grant, pay, control, supervise and recover undue perceptions of the IFE. Besides, Resolution 84/2020 of ANSES established additional requirements to access this program.
To date, three IFE payments have been made and a fourth payment is being evaluated. The ANSES General Planning Direction at its Boletín IFE I – 2020: “Caracterización de la población beneficiaria” made an analysis of the results of the first payment, which took place during April and May. According to the information detailed in the Bulletin, nearly thirteen million four hundred thousand people requested the IFE at that time. Of that number of applications, almost 8.9 million beneficiaries were selected. The rest of applications were rejected mainly because the holder or a member of the family group had a dependent employment relationship, he/she had pension benefits, he/she was the holder of an incompatible social plan, or he/she was a foreigner and had not provided sufficient information.
Of the total number of beneficiaries who were selected for the first IFE payment, 55.7% of applicants were women. In the analysis carried out by ANSES, this situation was attributable to three factors:
- gender inequality was more noticeable in the most vulnerable sectors of the population
- if there was more than one applicant per household, priority was given to the woman
- about 27% of IFE’s benefits were given to Universal Child Allowance holders, where the percentage of women exceeds 90%.
Concerning the age range of those who requested the IFE, it was established that the grant of this benefit decreases in relationship to age: the coverage between 18 and 24 years old is 52%, between 25 and 34 years old is 44%, between 35 and 44 years old is 28%, between 45 and 54 years old is 21% and between 55 and 65 years old is 14%.
The implementation of the IFE program was not easy; during the first payment there were notorious operational difficulties. Furthermore, the implementation of the IFE program contributed to expose social inequalities that must be analyzed in order to make progress in improving public policies for inclusion. However, it was carried out in record time and reached all the provinces of the country. The IFE program also demonstrated good coordination among the different agencies of the Public Administration and the banking sector in general.
For this program, the United Nations Organization – UN, recognized Argentina as one of the twenty-one countries that developed specific measures to face COVID-19. In the document “Looking back to look ahead: A rights-based approach to social protection in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery”, the UNO highlighted the IFE as one of the eight programs in the world that took into account the gender perspective because it covered the precarious situation of women workers in the informal sector during the pandemic.
No doubt, the IFE is the most far-reaching economic program in Argentina’s history and to date it has been fundamental in preventing three million families from falling into poverty and one million four hundred thousand from falling into destitution.