© Reuters. Jorge Pedro Armoa, 67, works with metal in one of his three jobs to beat Argentina’s over 100% inflation rate, in 9 de Abril, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina March 21, 2023. REUTERS/Tomas Cuesta
By Miguel Lo Bianco and Lucila Sigal
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -As Argentina’s over 100% inflation rate saps earning power and outstrips wages, Jorge Pedro Armoa, 67, has found a painful solution: juggling three jobs as a metal worker, soccer coach and part-time salesman of medical creams, flip flops and honey.
Armoa, who lives in a small home in the outskirts of capital city Buenos Aires, gets up early every day for his seven-day working week to stave off poverty that affects almost four in 10 people in the South American country.
“The situation is complex. Salaries are very low, things are very expensive. So sometimes it’s not enough,” said Armoa, a metal mold factory worker who is the technical director of a local soccer team and funds his own small business.
Argentinians are battling through a painful economic crisis with annual inflation at 102.5% and expected to climb further, strict capital controls warping the peso’s value, and tumbling foreign currency reserves raising fears about future defaults.
Poverty, which edged down due to state support during the COVID-19 pandemic, shot back up to 39.2% in the second half of last year from 36.5% in the first half, the government said on Thursday, as inflation eroded the purchasing power of wages.
“The thing is that increases in working people’s incomes have been lower than the inflation of the overall basic food basket,” said Martín González Rozada, an economist and professor of econometrics at the Universidad Di Tella.
He added that poverty was likely even higher than 40% in the early part of this year and pointed out that around half of the country’s children lived in poor households.
Government handouts and subsidies have kept down levels of extreme poverty, but that may come under pressure as the state tries to overturn a deep fiscal deficit and reduce spending as dollars are scarce and a drought has hit the key farming sector.
Many of Argentina’s nearly 46 million people are unable to pay for the total basic basket of goods and services, which costs 177,000 pesos per month (some $849).
Armoa, even with his three salaries and income from his wife, a teaching assistant, often struggles to get by.
“With the issue of the price of things, it’s difficult to live. But hey, sometimes we get there and sometimes we have scrape by to get there,” said Armoa while chopping onions at his home to improvise a dinner.
“You have to put a positive face on things, good energy and think that tomorrow things will be better.”