Employment, Unemployment, and Underemployment
The 2002 peso collapse triggered an economic decline that, on a single-country level, could only be compared to the 1930s Great Depression. As the official unemployment figure approached 25 percent, street, bus, and subway vendors became far more numerous than in the past, and the numbers of people rummaging through garbage for recyclables shocked almost everyone. Unemployed individuals even spent the night in line at Banco de la Nación and private exchange houses in hopes of selling their spot to those who had sufficient pesos to purchase dollars. Similarly, individuals waited outside the Italian consulate and other European missions to sell their place in line for passports and visas.
At the end of 2009, President Fernández de Kirchner claimed that unemployment had fallen to 8.4 percent and the worst of the crisis had passed. Most independent observers, though, feel the figure is at least 10 percent, and that it also disguises underemployment; numbers are also worse in the provinces than in Buenos Aires and are especially bad in the capital’s desperate southern suburbs.
The 2002 crisis also created an increasingly militant sector of publicly protesting piqueteros (pickets), who have blocked highways and put enormous pressure on the government for remedial action and, many would argue, handouts for graft.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition