The discussion taking place in academia, international agencies, other organizations
and in Argentina about the establishment of a social protection floor starts from
different conceptions of the economy and social policies, which lead to conceptually
diverse proposals. Discussions on linking social protection and employment in particular
are perhaps the most intense since they involve political and social actors with
very different positions.
In the case of Argentina, the drive to establish a universal child allowance was
a longstanding demand, based on proposals from various sectors, social actors, unions
and politicians. The main objective was to develop and implement a massive public
policy campaign in order to reduce poverty, especially extreme poverty, and benefit
the lower income sectors. In this sense, the configuration of a more precarious and
fragile labour market, which had previously excluded a large segment of workers from
social security benefits and thus from this policy instrument, could repair the
effects of this failing. However, the proposal does not mean abandoning the goal
of achieving a labour market and an employment sector that guarantee social security
coverage and adequate incomes.
From an alternative theoretical perspective, there is an advancing school of thought
that locates the source of the problem not in the lack of jobs but in the “lack
of social integration because of the type of employment offered by the economic
system” (Lo Vuolo, 2001). This type of thinking emphasizes the need to separate
income security from job security and proposes a more comprehensive notion of labour.
Thus, taking as a reference the analytical framework used by Groot and van der Veen
(2002), international experience shows that systems of income transfers are slipping
from traditional so called “conditional welfare” schemes to other variants. These
variants include workfare schemes as well as proposals regarding the concepts of
“basic income” and “participation income”.
Despite the substantive changes in the labour market mentioned earlier, since 2003
Argentina has seen a very significant increase in registered jobs. This showed that
the creation of employment, protected employment and better working conditions are
obtained from the reformulation of an economic policy that had and still has as
its cornerstone job creation and job quality (graph 1). The momentum towards the
generation of formal jobs exposed the fallacy of the “end-of-work” theory that arose
from orthodox economic models and that appeared to be an irreversible characteristic.
This empirical evidence was able to promote and support alternative Keynesian economic
policies of underpinning demand by generating more and better jobs and by having
an active State presence in the distribution of income.
Despite these substantial changes in the labour market, however, there still remained
a very significant proportion of workers and families with no social security coverage.
It should be noted that Argentina had a rich and historical institutional experience
in social security, including the subsystem of Family Allowances (Asignaciones Familiares)
covering the children of registered workers. Therefore, the implementation of the
Universal Child Allowance (Asignación Universal por Hijo, AUH) Decree was analysed
and approved within the legal framework of this social security system, which granted
full rights to all children whose parents had been excluded from the formal labour