Medium-run Inequality in Argentina (1992-2017)

The Argentine statistics agency (INDEC) recently released data on the distribution of income. Since 2007, statistical data from the INDEC was not considered reliable. In 2016, the Macri administration re-established confidence in official statistics. Thus, Argentine statistics have regained comparability. With new data, we can take a medium-term view on the evolution of income distribution. Reliable data on income distribution goes back to the late 1980s. This allows us to compare two periods. The first period is the neoliberal period (1990-2001). The second period being the post-neoliberal period (2003-2015). The latter period, after 2006, is a blackbox due to the statistical crisis. The latest data allows us to see what the impact of post-neoliberal policies had on the income distribution. A note, Macri’s austerity policies negatively affected the distribution of income in 2017. The data shows that even in 2017, the picture remains positive.

I divide the periods into three: 1992, before the mass layoffs caused by privatization; 2006, before the the intervention in the INDEC; and 2017. In Table One, we see the evolution of income for the top 20, middle 60, and bottom 20. The middle 60 approximating the part of the population covered by collective contracts. The bottom 20 approximate those outside of the formal labour force. The top 20 being the upper middle class and rich.

Table One
1992 2006 2017
Bottom 20 4.6 3.6 4.5
Middle 60 44.5 44 47.9
Top 20 50.9 52.4 47.7

Sources: World Bank and INDEC

What does the data tell us? First, the bottom 20 have recovered most of  their share of income from the neoliberal period. The income of the bottom 20 is very sensitive to economic shocks. It is likely that they surpassed 1992 levels before Macri. Yet, the biggest winners from the post-neoliberal period is the middle 60. That is, formal sector workers covered by collective contracts. Their share of income increased by 3.4 percent from 1992. This was a period of time with a similar level of unemployment as in 2017. Thus, the pro-labour policies of the post-neoliberal period did redistribute income to the traditional working class. This formed the basis of a consumption-led growth model. With comparability of the data recovered, we can determine if Macri represents a new shift in the political economy of Argentina.

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