Argentina - Working conditions

The Argentine workforce numbers approximately 15 million (this includes those working or actively seeking employment). About 60 percent of the workforce is male. In 2000, the unemployment rate was 15.4 percent. The unemployment rate was highest in urban areas, and in Buenos Aires it was close to 18 percent. In addition to the high unemployment level, Argentina has a significant underemployment rate.

The nation's constitution guarantees workers the right to form unions, although union membership has steadily declined in Argentina. During the 1950s, about 50 percent of the workforce was unionized. However, by 2000, only about 35 percent of the workforce belonged to unions. For much of their modern history, unions were associated with Peron and during the early 1970s, Peronists accounted for 70 percent of union leadership. During the military regime that began in the late 1970s, the unions were purged of Peronists. Unions remain very active and in 2000 2 general, nationwide strikes virtually shut down most government and many private businesses. These strikes were in response to government labor reform laws. Foreign companies have found Argentina's labor market to be inflexible and expensive. Companies have to pay employees a month's salary for each year the employee has worked in cases of lay-offs, and labor agreements often forbid the transfer of employees from location to location or from job to job. Corruption in labor and government has often resulted in foreign firms being forced to pay large bribes in order to do business. One of the most celebrated cases occurred in 1994 when IBM officials were forced to pay millions in bribes in exchange for a US$249 million contract to provide computers for the Banco de la Nacion.

The national minimum wage is US$200 per month, but most workers earn more. All Argentinean workers are entitled to an annual bonus that is equal to 1 month's pay. This bonus is paid in 2 installments in June and December. The maximum work week is 48 hours and the maximum

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Argentina 30 9 17 15 15 5 9
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Brazil 22 13 18 15 34 4 -6
Chile 17 10 24 20 15 6 9
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

workday is 8 hours. Work done beyond these limitations must be paid an overtime rate of 1.5 times salary. All workers receive annual vacation time which ranges between 14 and 35 days per year. Since 1995, average wages for Argentine workers have increased by 5 percent. Employers must contribute payments to workers' pension and health-care plans that equal 33 percent of the worker's salary. Individual workers make payments that equal 17 percent of their salary for these social guarantees. The retirement age is 60 for women and 65 for men. Upon retirement, workers receive a social security payment known as the "basic universal benefit." In order to qualify, employees must have worked a minimum of 30 years. Many workers have chosen to invest in the nation's private pension plans that pay an average of 20 percent per year more than the basic universal benefit.

Children under the age of 15 are not allowed to work, except in rare circumstances, usually on family farms. Government permits must be granted for these exceptions. Children between the ages of 15 and 18 may work up to 6 hours per day and a maximum of 35 hours per week. Studies have revealed that about 5 percent of children under the age of 15 are illegally employed. Women face discrimination in hiring and wages. On average, women earn about 70 percent of what their male counterparts earn in similar occupations. Only 12 percent of the executives of the nation's largest companies are female.

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