BUENOS AIRES, March 10, 2011 - Half a million additional kids in Argentina will see their prospects in life improve following the expansion of a popular social protection program with World Bank support.
A $480 million additional financing announced today at the Bank’s Washington DC headquarters, will inject funds into the government-run Universal Child Allowance (AUH) and Training and Employment Insurance programs that currently benefit 3.4 million children and 150,000 unemployed and informally employed parents in Argentina. The financing is part of the ongoing World Bank Basic Protection Program approved in 2009 to provide an economic cushion to the poor in the midst of the global financial crisis.
This renewed commitment to the kids and the needy in Argentina is seen as critical step towards reducing extreme poverty in the South American nation.
“An initiative like this can have important results in the short term, such as contributing to reducing extreme poverty by 50 percent,” said World Bank social protection expert Rafael Rofman.
According to the expert, this can become a social protection model in the region on account of its strong leverage to promote inclusion and equity among poor children and their parents. “For the first time a social protection mechanism is introduced that is not contingent on the parent getting a job,” Rofman noted while adding that it provides assistance when the children need it most –between childhood and puberty.
Introduced in 2009, the Universal Child Allowance (AUH, in Spanish) provides incomes of $220 Argentine pesos (or US$55) to unemployed or informally employed parents with children under 18. The new Bank-supported expansion aims to provide coverage to about 450,000 eligible kids who currently do not receive the benefit, bringing the total of beneficiaries to almost 4 million children.
Additionally, the Bank funds will expand the so-called Training and Employment Insurance Program that provides a basic income and job skills updating to unemployed workers to help them return to the labor force. In the last two years, almost 20 percent of workers participating in the program found a formal job and close to 20,000 unemployed workers are expected to join in 2011. To date it has benefitted 150,00 workers.
Argentina has made significant progress towards protecting its most vulnerable populations with innovative programs such the current ones, said Rofman. But –the expert noted- there are still many bumps on the road to defeating poverty, notably securing the social advances made in recent years, while keeping fiscal expenses and social reforms sustainable.