Report Nº: 84720/02/2020
Changing welfare programs into formal jobs is a shared aspiration. Unfortunately, it will take a long time. One essential step forward in this goal is to get children living on welfare back in school instead of participating in protest marches demanding more welfare.
A recurring question with an elusive answer is what to do with the beneficiaries of welfare programs. The previous government unsuccessfully implemented the “Plan Empalme” with the idea that employers who hire welfare beneficiaries take the benefit as part of the salary. The current government is now proposing to raise the subsidy to an amount equivalent to the legal minimum wage to encourage welfare recipients to do community work by fixing schools. This is basically equivalent to public employment.
In the discourse, welfare is understood as a transitional palliative until more good jobs are created. However, the reality in recent decades has shown that welfare has become a permanent policy. Why is it so difficult to transform welfare programs into good jobs?
The answer to this question requires to compare the educational profile of those who currently have formal wage-earning jobs in private companies with those who live on welfare. According to INDEC household survey, among people over 20 years of age, it can be seen that:
These data show that the educational profile of the welfare recipients is not in line with the educational requirements of private companies that generate formal jobs. The needs of the companies far exceed the low educational levels of the people trapped in welfare. Therefore, it is an illusion to expect that economic growth will provide people in welfare with goo jobs.
The natural proposal in the face of this evidence is to provide training to those who live on welfare. Training can certainly help to obtain employment, but it does not replace formal education. In general, with training, the most that can be expected is to help them get jobs in the informal sector, as many of them are already doing to supplement their welfare income. According to the INDEC, approximately half of the adults who receive welfare benefits declare that they are working informally, either as unregistered salaried workers in small businesses or as self-employed.
The solution is a long-term challenge. The point is to avoid that the children living on welfare repeat their parents’ histories. For this to happen, a change of paradigm in the education system must occur. Instead of prioritizing the interests of teachers’ unions, priorities should be set on the students’ learning abilities, especially the poorest ones. In addition to improving the quality of education, children and youngsters should be present in schools. In this regard, the current obsolete instrument for monitoring school attendance used by ANSES (the national social security office) must be modernized. A system of alerts must be in place so that municipalities can act immediately as soon as a child or a youngster quit school. Publishing this information would facilitate the community’s social control over its mayor’s management of school attendance.
Parents must also be given strong signals that the children’s presence in the school is non-negotiable. For this, the presence of minors in protests claiming more welfare programs should be prohibited. It is a similar act of prohibition as with the purchase of tobacco, alcohol, driving cars or voting to minors. Childhood and youth should stop being used for protest marches searching for more welfare and return to school.