Gender and the Job Guarantee: The impact of Argentina’s Jefes program on female
heads of poor households
Working Paper No. 50
Pavlina R. Tcherneva(info)
L. Randall Wray(info)
Gender and the Job Guarantee: The impact
of Argentina’s Jefes program on female heads of poor households
Tcherneva and L. Randall Wray
For many years
Argentina was proclaimed to be the success story of IMF austerity and market
liberalization policies, until it experienced an economic meltdown in the winter
of 2001-2002. To deal with the looming crisis and skyrocketing unemployment and
poverty rates, the Argentinean government implemented a limited job guarantee
program called PlanJefes y Jefas de Hogar Desocupados (Program
for the Unemployed Male and Female Heads of Households, or simply Jefes).
Participation in the program grew quickly, to 2 million workers at its peak or
about 5% of the population, and about 13% of the labor force. Much to the
surprise of Labor Ministry officials, female heads of households initially
accounted for some 60% of program participants and that has grown to a bit less
than three-quarters today. Formal surveys indicate that the program is
well-targeted to intended households (poor families with children) and is highly
popular among participants. Studies by international researchers (including the
World Bank) find that projects are generally well-run, completed on time, and
provide needed services to poor communities.
program faces sustained criticism in the media, by some research institutions,
and by policy-makers. Indeed, even economists at the Labor Ministry appear to be
planning for the eventual replacement of Jefes with a more traditional
combination of unemployment compensation for the “economically active” (largely
male) population and “welfare” for women (who are considered to be largely
“inactive”). In August 2005, C-FEPS conducted a series of interviews with
government officials, project coordinators, and program participants. In this
paper we will report on our evaluation of the benefits of the
program—particularly for female participants, as Jefes participation has
from the beginning been predominately female.
important because those contemplating program “reform” do not appear to
recognize the extent to which gender matters in Jefes program evaluation.
Indeed, the primary measures used by officials to evaluate the program (“market
efficiency” criteria) ignore many, and perhaps most, of the benefits received by
women. We find that female participants prefer work over welfare, because they
feel that working has enriched their social life, allowing them to become
involved in, and contribute to, their communities. Further, employment in some
of the projects has also increased access to a range of social services that
(anecdotally) help to reduce spousal abuse, school drop-out rates, drug abuse
and related crimes, and so on. Most of the women—especially those who had not
previously participated in formal labor markets—believed they are learning
useful skills; many think they are improving their chances of obtaining other
(non-Jefes) paid work, which some women desire. We conclude that
government attempts to dismantle the program would not only meet with
substantial opposition from program participants, but if successful could
represent a huge step backward with respect to reduction of gender inequality.
We conclude with a call for more detailed and larger studies of the gendered
impacts of Jefes, and of the possible consequences of “reform” along
traditional lines for women who would be dismissed from the program.
II.OVERVIEW OF JEFES PROGRAM AND EVALUATION OF AGGREGATE DATA
Through most of the 1990s, Argentina had been the
poster child for the Washington Consensus, adopting a currency board, opening
markets, downsizing government, and freeing capital. After its economy collapsed
and unemployment and poverty skyrocketed, it implemented a limited employer of
last resort program called PlanJefes de Hogar, to provide jobs to
poor heads of households.
The Jefes program provides a payment of 150
pesos per month to a head of household for a minimum of 4 hours of work daily.
Participants work in community services and small construction or maintenance
activities, or are directed to training programs (including finishing basic
education). The household must contain children under age 18, persons with
handicaps, or a pregnant woman. Households are generally limited to one
participant in the Jefes program. The program was intended to be one of
the government’s primary programs to deal with the economic crisis that gripped
Argentina with the collapse of the currency board. Most other safety net
programs were eliminated or reduced in order to shift funding to Jefes.
The Ministry of Labor also operates another employment program, Programa de
Emergencia Laboral (PEL) with a design very similar to that of Jefes—monthly
benefits are the same, but it includes some beneficiaries that do not qualify
Government’s total spending on Jefes and PEL
is currently equal to about 1% of GDP, with nearly 2 million participants (about
1.6 million in Jefes and 300,000 in PEL). This is out of a
population of only 37 million, or more than 5% of the population. The size of
the program was a concern, not only because of organizational demands but also
because of the cost. However, it should be noted that the U.S. spends 1% of GDP
on anti-poverty social assistance, while France and the UK spend 3-4% of GDP on
such programs (Neubourg, et al 2005). Given a national poverty rate of 57.7% in
2002, and with 9.6 million indigents and a child poverty rate approaching 75%,
Argentina’s spending is small relative to needs.
the World Bank’s reviews (see for example World Bank Report No: 23710-AR), the
program has been successful in achieving a number of goals. First, program
spending is well targeted to the intended population—poor households with
children. Second, the program has provided needed services and small
infrastructure projects in poor communities, with most projects successfully
completed and operating. Third, the program has increased income of poor
households, although it has not pulled them above the poverty line (this is not
surprising, because of the low monthly income provided through the program).
Hence, the poverty rate in Argentina continued to rise during the first months
after the implementation of Jefes.
beneficiaries report satisfaction with the program, there are reports of
favoritism, and some home country researchers have criticized its design. One of the most
surprising results of the program has been the large influx of women into
Jefes—in the early days of the program, women accounted for over 60% of
program participants and that has since risen to almost three-quarters. It is
suspected that many households have chosen to designate the woman as the head so
that she could participate in the program while the husband attempts to find
private sector work, including work in the underground economy. Some consider
this to be an undesirable outcome (more below), and it seems to be behind some
efforts to “reform” the program. In any case, the program is overwhelmingly
female, which makes a difference in terms of program design as well as
measurement and perception of program success—as we will discuss.
program is designed to limit entry to those who had qualified and signed-up by
May 17, 2002, although some who did not meet that deadline have been added. This
is said to have resulted in some cases of discrimination because other potential
participants were denied access even though they appeared to meet program
requirements—but had missed the deadline. More importantly, households have been
forced to make a choice concerning who would participate in the program. Limited
entry prevents the program from reducing unemployment and poverty rates further.
If entry into the program were not restricted to one participant per family, it
is probable that many poor families would send both husband and wife into the
program. This would provide a minimum family income of 300 pesos monthly,
lifting some families out of poverty. If the program were broadened further,
extended beyond heads of households with children, persons with disabilities, or
pregnant women, participation would almost certainly grow well beyond 2 million.
The unemployment rate would fall much further, as would the poverty rate.
Further, by limiting the program to the equivalent of half-time work, workers
are prevented from working the number of hours desired, and their incomes are
reduced to the extent that they are unable to find another part-time job to make
up the difference. Given that many participants—especially females—have no
previous formal labor market experience, the likelihood that they will find work
outside Jefes at anything approaching the minimum wage is quite low.
Limiting entry appears to have been made a central feature of the program in an
attempt to constrain federal government spending; however, it has led to much
dissatisfaction and possibly to some instances of favoritism and corruption.
In the remainder of this section, we look at several of
the more conventional (and objective) indicators of the effects of the program.
In the next section we will examine more informal and anecdotal indicators.
Despite the program
deficiencies outlined above, Jefes has been successful in reducing
indigence rates among its participants. Indigence is extreme poverty measured
in income necessary to purchase the minimum amount of food calories per day.
Only four months after the implementation of Jefes in April 2002, the
indigence rates among participating households had fallen by nearly 25% and
among individuals by over 18% (Figure 1). As noted above, the reduction in
poverty has been small, largely because the program restricts participation to
heads of household and because the income it provides is below the official
refer to data collected through a one-time supplement to the Ministry of Labor
Permanent Household Survey Oct 2002: “Evaluación Plan
Jefas y Jefes de Hogar Desocupadas/os”)
in Indigence and Poverty of JefesBeneficiaries
2.Characteristics of Program
participants come from households with at least one unmet basic need (Figure
2). These are people who live in overcrowded or otherwise inadequate housing
conditions, with poor sanitation and very high dependency ratios, as measured by
the number of family members per employed person in the household. As Figure 2
shows, the average dependency ratio in families with Jefes beneficiaries
is 3.9 people per employed individual. Secondly, Jefes workers are
individuals with low educational attainment and low income; the vast majority of
Jefes beneficiaries have high school education or less (Figure 3) and
fall primarily in the bottom two income quintiles (Figure 4). One surprising
result, as we already noted, has been the significant influx of women into the
program, who accounted for 64% of program participants in 2002, and that has
been slowing rising, to something close to 75% today (Figure 5).
Beneficiaries According to Unmet Basic Needs
Beneficiaries According to Educational Attainment
Beneficiaries According to Distribution of Personal Income
5:Beneficiaries by Gender
Beneficiaries’ Satisfaction with the Program
The response of the
beneficiaries to the Jefes plan has also been positive. As Figure 6
shows, only a small fraction of Jefes workers have said that they are
dissatisfied with the program, while 90% are either satisfied or very satisfied
with it. When asked how they felt when requesting the program, most people
(over 70%) reported “respected” as opposed to “undervalued” or “politically
used” (Figure 7). Some of the reasons for this satisfaction include the
opportunity “to do something” and “help the community,” but note that the second
largest reason for satisfaction that people report is the good environment that
Jefes jobs provide (Figure 8). It is especially significant that
participants rate these reasons far above “I have an income”. When asked what
they would prefer to do as part of Jefes, most people stated that they
would like to be involved in training and community projects (Figure 9).
of Satisfaction with the Program
You Feel When You Requested the Program?
Would You Like to Do As Part of the Program?
And the program
allows them to do just that—help the community. A large number of projects are
designed specifically to cater to community needs by providing a wide range of
goods and services. As Figure 10 shows 87% of Jefes beneficiaries work
in community projects. These include primarily agricultural micro-enterprises
and various social and community services (Figure 11). Some specific examples
include cleaning and environmental support in the agricultural sector, improving
the sewer systems and water-drainages. Much of the community work is performed
in local community centers, thus renovation of existing centers or construction
of new ones represent many small Jefes infrastructure projects. Examples
of community services performed in these centers include food kitchens or family
attention centers which address domestic violence issues or provide temporary
shelter and other services to abused women or children. Other projects include
health promotion programs, which offer basic education on sanitary issues—how to
boil water, for example, or how to handle food and avoid dysentery and other
infections. Others deal with mending old clothes that have been donated to poor
communities. A similar program exists for the public libraries, where scrapped
books from wealthier regions are repaired and catalogued for public libraries in
poorer communities. Large-scale infrastructure projects, primarily under the
jurisdiction of the Ministry of Infrastructure, also hire Jefes workers
for the repair of Argentina’s roads and bridges.
Distribution of Jefes Workers by Type of Employment
Positive impacts on Participants
One of the most
distinguishing features of the program’s institutional design is its
decentralized model of administration. The Argentinean federal government
provides the funding, general guidelines for the execution of work projects, and
some auxiliary services for managing the program. Such services include
maintaining a national registry of program beneficiaries, as well as databases
that track all projects that have been proposed, approved, denied and completed.
Note that all these databases are publicly available, thereby increasing
transparency and reducing corruption.
The actual administration of the program, however, is primarily executed by the
municipal governments. The municipalities are responsible for assessing the
pressing needs and available resources of their communities and for evaluating
the projects proposed by the local non-profits or NGOs. For those projects that
have been approved, the municipality contacts program beneficiaries informing
them of the availability, time, and place of work. As we will discuss below,
organization of projects by community activists has provided the opportunity to
provide a range of additional services to participants, while enhancing social
cohesion and participation in community life.
In addition, by
remunerating activities that had previously been mostly unpaid work, Jefes
has helped to broaden the meaning of work. For example, in the past, some
people have delivered medicine or read newspapers to the elderly on purely
voluntary basis; now the Jefes program allows for these to be paid
activities. Other undertakings that may not be in the purview of profit-making
enterprises (e.g., environmental cleanup, child care, soup kitchens) are also
part of these government-funded jobs. The preliminary indication is that the
projects provide needed service to the community. Furthermore the program has
enhanced civic participation by involving many people across different social
strata in the political process. Participants were also required to register
their children in school and take the necessary vaccinations. These are two
added benefits of the program design, made possible by simple eligibility
VISITS AND INTERVIEWS WITH PARTICIPANTS AND SUPERVISORS
In August 2005
we conducted a series of site visits, interviewing program participants and
supervisors. We make no claim that the projects we examined represent a random
sample; however, we did visit a range of types of projects. We visited projects
that were formulated and supervised by community activists as well as those run
by municipal governments. We also were able to observe projects whose
participants were mostly immigrants with little formal labor market experience,
as well as projects with skilled workers who had lost jobs as a result of the
economic crisis. One project employed mostly young and educated women from a
“downwardly mobile” neighborhood that had aspired to middle class status before
the crisis. Some of the projects sold output in markets, while others
distributed their output or services free of charge to their communities. We
visited projects in both urban and suburban areas surrounding Buenos Aires. A
large majority of the participants we interviewed were female, as were many of
sample of projects and participants was not representative of the program as a
whole due to the following limitations: we did not visit projects outside the
greater Buenos Aires area; there were no rural areas included (and only one
quasi-agricultural project included); male participants were under-represented;
and we were not able to visit any large scale enterprises (such as public
hospitals) that employ Jefes workers. While we had a series of questions
to help guide the interviews (see appendix), we allowed the discussion to
develop naturally. In some cases, supervisors had gathered together a number of
participants for the interview; in other cases, we interviewed participants as
they worked at their usual workplace. Translation was done by Daniel Kostzer
(Labor Ministry economist who is also a C-FEPS research associate) and Martha
Tepepa (Columbia University). In addition, Jan Kregel, Chief of Policy Analysis
and Development, Office of Financing for Development, United Nations, and
Distinguished Research Professor, UMKC, attended the meetings with government
officials. We videotaped all interviews. In what follows, we report on our
findings, based on our notes and videotapes. Because these are open-ended,
informal, interviews, the videotapes provide the only documentation for most of
the claims made in the report that follows. We will make copies of this
videotape available to researchers.
Projects in the Neighborhood of Mataderos
The first group
of job creation projects we visited was in the neighborhood of Mataderos. It is
perhaps among the most impoverished region in suburban Buenos Aires. The
infrastructure was crumbling, many streets were not paved, there was limited
electrification, houses lacked proper windows and roofs (there were many shanty
homes), manhole covers were missing, and piles of trash littered the streets. In
fact this particular area of Mataderos was called Ciudad Oculta—the Hidden City,
a city whose destitution, according to the locals, nobody wants to see.
through the neighborhood was Gladis, a leader of one of the picatero political
social movements, called “Barrios de Pie”. Picateros are generally members of
political organizations that represent the workers and the poorest of the poor.
The picateros were among the many individuals who took to the streets during the
crisis in Dec 2001-Jan 2002 and who demanded that the government create jobs and
deal with the massive poverty problem.
Most of these social movements today have official representation in the
Ministry of Labor, so that the interests of the poorest segments of the
population are directly conveyed to policy makers. In other words, these are
political or grassroots movements whose representatives have a voice in
government. Gladis was one such representative.
showed us the construction project of a very small two-story building, whose
first floor was intended as a butcher shop for the unemployed men in the
community, and whose second floor was to serve as a small training and education
facility. This was a common model for many projects: one room was allocated to
the actual jobs being performed, while adjacent rooms were allocated for
literacy training or basic education. It is worth noting that the initial
stages of construction were self-financed. The organizers were planning to apply
for funds from the government in order to complete the project and pay Jefes
wages to those who would work there. Such job creation projects generally
receive up to 60% to 80% of funds from the national government (see Tcherneva
and Wray 2005a, 2005b and 2005c). The rest is financed through non-profits or
Our next stop was a
local bakery. Once again this was a very small structure. There were three women
at work, with one oven. The second floor here, too, had a training facility,
where the women learned how to maintain cleanliness standards, make the dough
and bake goods. Other men and women also came for literacy training at this
facility. We were greeted by about 25 men and women, members of the “Barrios de
Pie” organization, each of whom worked or studied at this facility. Almost all
the participants were immigrants, from a number of South American countries
(including Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, and Uruguay)—although most had been in
Argentina since the 1980s or 1990s. Most of the women had not previously worked
outside the home for pay. We interviewed the supervisor and the workers. Each
was allowed to work only four hours (as the program requirements stipulate) and
all of the food that was produced there went to feed the community. The workers
told us that the food they made was insufficient to feed the hungry and, in
fact, the poor from neighboring boroughs also came to get food at this location.
We asked the workers if they would like to work more hours for more pay—for
example 8 hours for double the pay. Each, without exception, said ‘yes.’ We
also asked whether they would prefer to receive equivalent transfer (“welfare”)
payments to stay home and each said ‘no’. When asked why they preferred to work,
most mentioned that they wanted to contribute to their community and that
participation in the program had helped them to get to know their neighbors. A
few thought that participation would enhance their employability, although
several of the women mentioned that it would not be feasible for them to work
outside their community due to family responsibilities.
other food kitchens scattered in the neighborhood. We were told that they
experienced the same problems—they could not feed everyone who knocked on their
services provided to the residents of these neighborhoods included shelters for
battered women and abused children. Because those who work in the shelters also
live in the communities they serve, they had a good idea of which women and
children needed this service but were afraid to ask. Thus they were able to
reach out and help them.
project we visited was a sewing facility. Again this facility was in a very
small room that had three sewing machines purchased with government funds. The
beneficiaries were unemployed heads of household who had lost their textile
factory jobs during the crisis. They were ‘skilled labor’ although they were
very poor and with little formal education (most had not finished secondary
school). Two women and one man were working there when we visited. The clothes
they made were primarily for the neighborhood children—mainly school uniforms
and gym outfits. The government provided the materials and wages for four hours
of work. However, the workers were allowed to use the machines additional hours
if they wanted to produce more clothes. In that case, they had to buy the
additional materials themselves and find a market for their products. This
particular group had formed a cooperative (not an unusual arrangement), and they
marketed the ‘extra’ output and used the proceeds to cover their costs and share
the profits. Again, we asked them whether they would like to work more hours
for more pay and all said ‘yes’. Indeed, these workers were already working far
more than the required 4 hours (we arrived in late morning and the workers said
they had worked all night). Furthermore, all preferred paid work over transfer
payments—even at the same pay.
Projects in the Municipality of Almirante Brown
The other set
of projects we visited were located in the Municipality of Almirante Brown.
This neighborhood is an hour and a half by car from downtown Buenos Aires. It
is also a somewhat ‘wealthier’ neighborhood by comparison. It still had many
dirt roads and crumbling homes, but it was generally cleaner, there were some
small shops and businesses in the area, and the neighborhood was a bit
safer. The neighborhood was said to have been lower middle class before the
Our guide was
Dr. Graciela Doldan—the General Director for Employment for this
municipality. In contrast to the projects run by the picateros, these projects
generally offered fewer social services for participants.
project we visited was an interesting hybrid of activities. The project was
located on a plot of land that previously had been abandoned and fallow. The
plot was assigned to a group of unemployed heads of households to use for their
own sustenance and provision. The beneficiaries had uprooted the shrubs and the
weeds and had divided the plot in two parts. One was used for agriculture where
men (for the most part) worked the land—they primarily planted vegetables to
feed themselves and their families. The other half of the plot held a bakery.
There was an outdoor oven where the women made bread and prepared the food
(again mostly for their own consumption). All of these people had children and
two women were assigned to their care. Thus, part of this half of the plot was
a kindergarten of sorts. There were a total of 25 people at this agro-coop, the
men and women working side by side to supply food to the group and to take care
of the children. As in the case of the bakery in Mataderos, most women had
previously been outside the formal labor market. Some of the men had lost
jobs—in one case skilled work as a printer—in the crisis; one young man was a
college student. All wanted more paid hours of work, and all said they
preferred work over transfer payments.
We next visited
another bakery, which prepared various pastries. Most of the people working
there were young women who had graduated from high school not too long ago and
were unable to find any jobs to support themselves and their kids. This bakery
made bread and pastries which they marketed to the neighbors on a door-to-door
basis. It also offered courses in various subjects from sewing and weaving to
gardening and hairdressing. Again, all people we interviewed wanted full time
work and preferred work over transfer payments. One young woman worked part-time
in another job at a wage far below the minimum wage to supplement her Jefes
wage; others worked as occasional domestic labor, but could not find sufficient
work to patch together a full time equivalent job even with the Jefes
facility was among the most interesting. A family with 9 children had offered
some of the rooms in their small home as working areas for Jefes
beneficiaries. This family was not paid anything (not even ‘rent’) in return.
Two of the
daughters of the homeowner worked in these projects along with the other
beneficiaries. One daughter was quite entrepreneurial. She and two other women
had obtained funding for two sewing machines from the government, which they
used to make baby clothes and blankets. She explained that she saved 10 percent
of her first sale and bought additional materials to make more clothes. She did
the same with her next earnings and so on. This was a micro-enterprise for
which the government funds essentially served as ‘start-up’ money used by the
beneficiaries to purchase the materials and set up their own shop. This young
woman and the other two workers also made clothes for the neighborhood and sold
them door-to-door. The room where they worked had educational posters announcing
places where one could get basic education in the neighborhood or advice on
contraception and family planning.
Another room in
this house contained a small workshop that produced handicrafts. It contained
approximately twenty women (and a few children), who sat around a long table
where they performed their respective jobs. They primarily produced toys.
While many of the women had never worked for pay previously, they either
possessed the necessary skills, or learned skills on-the-job. Many of these
toys were made of recycled or other inexpensive material. As with the products
of the other projects, many of these toys were distributed to the kids in the
neighborhood. August 14th is the Day of the Child in Argentina.
When we visited this toyshop, the workers were preparing special surprise
gifts for the kids in the area for this holiday.
There was yet another oven in this toyshop. Some of the women prepared
empanadas and various other baked goods for the people working there. Some of
the women preferred part-time work, although others wanted full time jobs. All
preferred work over transfer payments. When asked what they liked best about
their job, several women spontaneously answered that they enjoyed the social
interactions made possible by working together.
Many of the
products were delivered door to door, but some were sold in markets or even at
stores. We visited a large supermarket that had a special section designated for
Jefes products. This section was staffed by members of a small Jefes
cooperative. They had their own cash register and product displays. They sold
products made not only by the members of their coop but by other Jefes
workers as well. This particular location sold many knitted clothes, shoes,
small crafts, toys and furniture, including chairs, desks, and beds. There was
a picture catalogue of the many different products one could order that were
produced by Jefes workers, including kitchen cabinets, wooden staircases,
window frames—all of quality that did not seem in any way inferior to similar
but mass-produced products. A labor ministry official estimated that the
products were offered at about 20% below comparable market prices.
many of the immediate project supervisors and their beneficiaries. The next
section will cover some of their responses and will elaborate on our
observations. The last section concludes with the discussions we had with
government officials at the Labor Ministry and the City Government of Buenos
ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS AND NOTEWORTHY FINDINGS
1) Work vs.
It is commonly
argued that government employment programs create a moral hazard problem.
People take comfort in the guarantee of employment and do not put enough effort
in their work or look for ways to slack on the job. Furthermore, the argument
goes, people would much rather receive the monetary benefit of this safety-net
while staying at home instead of being forced to go to work. Finally, a major
critique of “job creation” is that it will be “make work”, producing nothing of
genuine value. While we will discuss this in more detail, the relevant
implication for our purposes here is that Jefes workers would not be
proud of their output.
Was this the
case with Jefes? During our site visits, we spoke with nearly 100
individuals who were Jefes workers. When asked “would you prefer to
receive the benefit of the Jefes program but stay at home,” every single
one, without exception, said that they would not want to sit at home and
that they preferred to go to work. When asked “why”, the most common responses
were that 1) they felt (or would feel) useless sitting at home, 2) they felt
like they were helping the community when they were working, 3) there is dignity
in working, 4) they were meeting their neighbors and 5) they were learning new
skills. Note that our findings are consistent with the survey data presented
above in Figures 5 and 6 (which show a high degree of satisfaction) and Figures
8, which indicate that participants are highly satisfied with the program
because they feel they “can do something”, they “help the community”, they “work
in a good environment” and they “learn”.
It is also
worth mentioning that while some of the visits were planned in advance, others
were surprise visits. In all cases, those who were on duty kept working. As we
interviewed them, we were under the distinct impression that there was work to
be done, which we were possibly disrupting. We also were able to spend time
with many people who were off-duty but wanted to talk to us about their
experience. In almost all cases, people took pride in the things they
produced. They treated us to pastries and wanted to know how they tasted. They
wanted us to see every type of baby outfit they made, touch the fabric, comment
on the products. The people from the toyshop gave us two souvenirs—a Christmas
tree ornament and a jewelry box, both of which were made with recycled plastic.
It is true that there were a few instances in which a worker commented that he
or she was capable of more “productive” work; in these cases, the worker had
previously held a job in a skilled occupation (a male who had been a typesetter;
a female who had been a professional white collar worker). These cases were few
and far between, but provide some evidence that satisfaction with the program is
inversely related to previous employment in formal labor markets in skilled
Services and Benefits
Some of the
important advantages of the program that beneficiaries reported were their
proximity to the jobs and to childcare. Beneficiaries’ kids attended daycare
(some of which was also provided through the Jefes program) or attended
school very close to home; in a few cases, young children were in the workplace
with their mothers. Furthermore, many people reported that before being laid
off, many of the private sector jobs were in areas of Buenos Aires that required
them to commute up to two hours in each direction. If their children needed to
be picked up from school earlier, there was no way to get to them due to the
long distance. Thus many indicated that if they were to work, they had to work
in the community due to childcare and transportation considerations. In some of
the projects, organizers provided social services to participants—often in a
room attached to the workplace. These services included tutoring and literacy
programs for children and adults, reproductive health services, and information
about intervention services for drug abuse and violence within the family.
problem with the program that the beneficiaries reported was the lack of a
pension plan. An elderly male, who worked in the agro-coop discussed above,
reported that he had been employed for 40 years in a private printing press
before he lost his job due to automation. He reported that he only had 5 years
to retirement, but after he was laid off, he lost both his job and the
retirement benefits. He now works in Jefes to feed himself, but he was
distressed about what to do when he becomes too frail to work the land.
reported that they would like to receive more training in Jefes, to
prepare them for higher-paying private sector work. This finding is consistent
with survey data reported above in Figure 9, in which nearly 30% of respondents
listed “training” as their primary motivation for participation in the
program—on par with the percent that ranked working in a community project as
the primary motivation. When we asked what type of training they needed, the
most common response was “computer training”. While we did not pursue this in
any detail, this sort of training appeared to be unrealistic for many
participants we observed—those with no formal sector experience and with only
basic education and literacy skills. Yet, even some of the poorest immigrant
women with the least education mentioned computer training. This might merely
indicate the degree to which “new economy” hype has penetrated the global
community. However, there is a real need for increasing the training component.
Supervisors also conceded that many projects were not providing skills in demand
by the private, formal, sector. Although many of the women we interviewed had no
interest in moving to a private sector job, others wanted to make that
Meaning of Work
particularly interesting to note that whomever we asked “do you think the
government can find enough jobs for all of the unemployed” interpreted the
question to be asking about factory or other industry jobs. This led many
people to answer with a ‘no.’ But when asked differently, “do you think that
there are essential goods and services that your community needs, which can be
performed by Jefes workers,” everyone, without exception, answered in the
affirmative. People distinguished between factory work and community work, with
many claiming that there are social services that are not considered
‘productive’ in the sense of profit-generating activities that, nonetheless,
needed to be done—things like caring for the young, old and the frail, cleaning
and fixing up the neighborhoods, running soup kitchens, and so on.
for the national advancement of employment at the Ministry of Labor, Dr. Luis
Casillo Marin, argued for example that in Argentina there is abundant
infrastructure for social services that sits underutilized, especially the
infrastructure that was put in place by the Eva Peron Foundation to help the
poor get housing, food and clothes. Scores of buildings, parks, recreation
facilities were created; there are numerous residences that the Foundation built
for elderly persons, abused persons, orphans, homeless people, poor and
unemployed people, people with disabilities, and immigrants. The Eva Peron
Foundation also built entire ‘student cities’, summer camp facilities, youth
homes for the arts, and sports and recreational facilities. The physical and
institutional infrastructure that was created by this foundation could be put to
use today if there were workers. The problem, Dr. Marin insisted, is lack of
paid workers to run them.
The Eva Peron
foundation was in many ways set up to do exactly what Jefes is doing
today. Many of these facilities were expropriated after the 1955 coup and were
used for other (mainly military) purposes. But, according to Dr. Marin, many
are largely underutilized, and it is a pity to leave these resources idle when
they were already set up to cater precisely to the needs of the people Jefes
also aimed to serve—especially since Jefes provides the needed paid labor
to help to operate the facilities.
is helping to redefine the meaning of work, providing paid employment for
activities that are generally thought to be “unproductive labor”. However, we
found significant barriers, especially at the highest levels of government, to
thinking about such types of work as deserving of remuneration. All of the
government officials agreed that the kinds of services provided by Jefes
projects were useful, but they were reluctant to view Jefes projects as
“efficient”. There was a strong bias toward market evaluation of efficiency. For
example, officials agreed that the bread provided by Jefes workers to
poor neighbors was meeting a real need; however, they believed that modern
private sector bakeries could meet this need much more “efficiently” with
skilled labor. The Jefes projects that they viewed as “sustainable” were
micro-enterprises that could compete in markets.
for transition to formal sector work
observation that emerged from our visits was that education and skill level was
highly linked to satisfaction with the program, and with desire to move out of
Jefes and into formal sector paid work. The poorest of the poor
(generally those with very little education), were very happy to work in the
community and hold Jefes jobs. Some of those with a bit more education
wanted private sector jobs but had bitter experiences with the working
conditions of factory jobs. Hence, they would move to the formal sector for paid
work, but only if working conditions were acceptable. Others with more
education, even if they liked Jefes and the environment it provided,
preferred to get back to the formal sector jobs they had lost.
For example, in
the Mataderos sewing cooperative, one of the men, complained about the
conditions in his former factory job. Before the textile factory shut down, he
was required to meet a daily quota of tailored clothes. If he was unable to do
so in 8 hours, he had to work overtime but with no pay, often till the wee hours
of the morning. Now he works close to home and if necessary stays late (even
all night) but only because he is remunerated for extra work—extra production is
sold and the coop divides the proceeds. Furthermore, he said that he was much
happier to be closer to his children. He wanted a private sector job but only
if it offered better conditions than those he had previously experienced in
private factories. He reported he was happy with the conditions in Jefes,
and would remain until a better offer came along.
indicated, those with few skills and little formal education said they were very
happy to work in the community food kitchens and agro-projects. This was often
their first job and many reported that they liked meeting many of their
neighbors and that they were no longer just sitting at home wondering what to do
with themselves. They looked forward to going to the Jefes jobs. Some of
those with more education reported that, while it was great to work side by side
with their neighbors, they looked forward to the time when they could get back
their factory or administrative or service jobs. The more education and skills
they possessed, the more likely participants were to consider their private
sector jobs ‘real work’ even if they performed similar tasks in their Jefes
job (as was the case in the sewing facility). Those however who started up
their own micro-enterprise were very happy to have their own business close to
6) Impact on
differential impact of the program on women was immediately apparent. Many were
happy to work and preferred to be among people to staying at home as they had
previously done. Many were happy that the daycare centers were close to their
jobs and that they could see their kids during the day. Many said they were
surprised by the small things they learned which they did not know before—how to
disinfect their working places/homes, how to prepare food (they learned new
recipes), and how to mend clothes. All felt that they did useful work for the
community and that this experience was good for them as well. Many of the
elderly in good health were also happy to have the option to work if they
wanted, and if they qualified.
‘reactivation of women’ (a rather misleading terminology indicating returning to
the labor force—as many of the women we interviewed had never been in the labor
force) was an unexpected result of Jefes—creators of the program had
presumed that most Jefes workers would be male. Some consider it a bad
thing that women are entering the labor market at all, or, at least, presume
that women would rather stay at home and collect a family allowance. However,
all women we interviewed said that they preferred to work and receive income
rather than receive income while staying at home. In other words, while the
monetary income was desired, women recognized other benefits from participation
in Jefes. As mentioned above, the benefits included: increased
probability of obtaining formal work in the private sector; working
cooperatively with neighbors; contributing to and participating in their
community; and learning life skills from their co-workers.
important because the Jefes program has recently started moving many
women off its payrolls and into another government program called Famillias.
This latter program is designed specifically for unemployed mothers and provides
no work option. So while the Jefes program used to provide income and
jobs to many women, they are now moved to a program which provides money but
without the opportunity to work. Some politicians and program administrators
spoke of this shift as a positive reform to the program, while the women we
interviewed (we stress again—without exception) wanted to work. As we will
discuss in more detail below, at least some government officials want to
continue to reduce female participation in paid work by replacing Jefes
with “welfare” for the economically “inactive” population and unemployment
benefits for the economically “active” population. Women who want to work, but
who will not find appropriate paid work in the formal sector, will be left
The point is not
to require women to work as is done in modern workfare programs with punitive
means-tested measures, but to give women the opportunity to be employed in
decent jobs if they want to work. In the US, one
of the results of the 90s welfare-to-work reform is that many women are required
to obtain jobs just to ‘prove’ they are deserving welfare recipients (even if
these jobs require long commutes and offer meager wages). Workfare does not
guarantee that there will be any jobs available. This means that the onus for
obtaining and keeping a job falls on participants; if a woman is unsuccessful,
there is a nearly automatic predilection to blame her for her inability to hold
a job. On the other hand, the Jefes program in Argentina provides to
women both the income and the job. As Hyman Minsky put it, jobs must be made
available that “take workers as they are”—that is, that tailor-make jobs that
suit the skills and availability of workers. Most of the women we interviewed
did not (yet) have skills desired by the private sector; further, their
geographic location, access to transportation, and family responsibilities all
made it very difficult for them to find formal private sector employment.
Finally, the private sector demand for labor remains depressed; while Argentina
is recovering from its financial crisis, workers still face a very depressed
labor market. Thus, the likelihood is high that many or even most women in
Jefes will not be able to find paid employment if Jefes is
Formalizing the Informal Sector
One of the
hopes of planners is that Jefes will help to reduce the number of workers
in the paid, informal sector, by bringing more of them into the formal sector.
Jefes workers are registered with social security
numbers. When they find private sector jobs in the formal sector, their
employers are required to pay social security and other mandatory taxes and
benefits. However, not many can find formal private sector jobs, first because
the private sector is still in shambles and not hiring in great numbers, second
because Jefes workers are largely from the low-skilled low-education
segments of the population, and third, (in many cases) also because of ethnic
discrimination. For example, men in the neighborhood of Mataderos reported that
many of the private sector jobs they applied for had a ‘height requirement.’
The Mataderos region is highly concentrated with immigrant or local indigenous
population, which tends to be much shorter than their white Argentinean
counterparts of European descent. The height requirement was clearly a method
of ‘selecting out’ the indigenous and immigrant labor. Hence, while Jefes
has offered a type of formal sector work, it is difficult for a large number of
workers to make the transition to paid work in the formal private sector.
It should also
be pointed out that many beneficiaries reported that because of the very low
Jefes wage, they still had to work in the informal sector to support their
Many women cleaned homes (this was now quite irregular work because the economic
crisis had also affected incomes of the middle classes that had previously
provided domestic work for these women), while some of the men worked in
construction or ran small errands for wealthier people.
people—especially the administrators we spoke with—said that working in Jefes
stigmatized participants, identifying them as low income and perhaps low
skill and education workers. Thus, they did not believe that participation in
Jefes would increase their chances of obtaining paid work in the formal
sector. However, female participants in the program—especially those with little
previous experience with paid work—believed that their Jefes work
enhanced their employability. It is possible that both views are correct, with
each applying to a different segment of the population, and to different
could be reduced, and transition to the formal sector employment enhanced,
through three changes to the program. First, if Jefes employment were
made available to all, rather than restricted to heads of poor families,
potential employers could not so easily, and correctly, surmise that
participants were from poor families. Second, if the training component of
Jefes were enhanced, participants could be provided with documentation of
skills learned. In addition, if Jefes participants were allowed to work
full-time (for commensurately higher income), this would reduce the necessity to
work in the informal paid sector. This would almost certainly attract more men
into the program. It would also improve pay and working conditions in both the
formal and informal sectors—as employers would have to compete with the Jefes
might have the result that some women would leave the program because the longer
hours and higher income might allow some men to support their families with only
one income. However, this could reduce some criticism of the program because
participation would be somewhat more “voluntary”. On the other hand even
full-time work (at 600 pesos per month at current pay) would leave a family with
a very low living standard if only one member of the household worked in
Jefes—so it is possible that many families would choose to have two (or
more) Jefes workers.
DISCUSSIONS WITH GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
with Federal Government officials included interviews with:
1.Lic. Daniel Hernandez—Director for National Training, Employment and
Professional Formation, Ministry of Labor
2.Lic. Jorge Costelo Maciel—Director of the National System of Employment,
Ministry of Labor
3.Lic. Gustavo Svarzman—Undersecretary of Production, Tourism and
Sustainable Development in the City Government of Buenos Aires
4.Dr. Luis Castillo Marin—Director for the National Promotion of
Employment, Ministry of Labor
Several of the
meetings also included some of these policy-makers’ staff members. All of these
meetings were arranged and facilitated by Daniel Kostzer, Director of Research
and Macroeconomic Coordination at the Ministry of Labor. Mr Kostzer, as
mentioned above, was instrumental in championing C-FEPS’s ELR model for
Argentina, and the Jefes program was created and implemented largely as a
result of his efforts.
administrators and their staff considered Jefes to be a temporary program
and most believe it needs substantial reform. It should be pointed out that
while many of the administrators and their staff members were critical of the
program, they were nonetheless committed to it—as an important albeit temporary
program. Although several officials mentioned that the program might be losing
political support, Dr. Marin emphasized that it still employs a large number of
people and therefore he did not foresee a program shutdown for at least 5 years.
Other officials told us that the federal government is studying (and apparently
considering) a major reform to its approach to dealing with poverty and
which Lic. Hernandez and Lic. Maciel discussed in some detail, involves phasing
out the job creation component of Jefes and replacing it with a universal
child allowance and limited-term unemployment insurance. The child allowance is
clearly a poverty-reducing measure, which in their opinion was not necessarily
in conflict with the current Jefes arrangement. The unemployment
insurance however was considered to be a more desirable labor market policy than
direct job creation. They had estimated that if Jefes were phased out,
approximately 600,000 people would apply for unemployment insurance (which is
proposed to pay 300 pesos per month for 12 months of unemployment). They had
also budgeted the total annual cost for this new program to be exactly what
Jefes costs today. Today the Jefes plan covers twice as many people
(about 1,200,000) who are employed at $150 pesos for 4 hours of work. The
reformers wanted to pay twice as much money to half the people for not-working.
Furthermore, their proposed program would expel participants after 12 months of
unemployment insurance, while Jefes is currently open-ended.
the political and economic justification for this reform. The government
officials explained that Jefes was losing political support (we
interpreted that to mean among the middle class and in the media) and they
believed there would be support for moving mothers out of Jefes while
providing income to their families through a child allowance. They also believed
there would be support for unemployment compensation for those who really wanted
to work—and as the economy improved, jobs would be created. We pointed out that
this proposed reform would leave behind many current Jefes participants
who want to work, but who do not have a realistic chance at obtaining paid
formal sector work. While they concurred, this did not change their views on the
need to replace Jefes.
Administrators we met reported the following problems with Jefes:
1.The most common objection government officials made concerned the issue
of corruption or clientelism. Some of this corruption comes directly from
government officials. The following example was given: someone runs for office
by promising access to the Jefes program to his unemployed constituents.
He is reelected, pockets the money and does not provide the jobs. Other forms
of corruption involve offering Jefes jobs to people who are not
unemployed (this is especially the case in the higher-income neighborhoods).
For example a construction company would lay off its employees, re-hire them as
Jefes workers, and subsidize their wage with the government funds. While
these are isolated cases, they are favorites with the media. In some cases
corruption is said to come from the political movements themselves. Some
picateros are said to use the Jefes money to pay their members to take to
the streets in demonstration for whatever cause the group favors. We were not
able to observe any such cases of corruption, but such stories seem to be
commonly invoked. Even if corruption is significant, it is not clear that the
proposed reform would resolve such problems—as both the child allowance program
as well as the unemployment benefits program could be manipulated for personal
gain. If local politicians are able to skim money that is supposed to be paid as
Jefes salaries, they may also be able to take money that is supposed to
go to children or the unemployed. Payments could still be made to families
conditional on political support, and favoritism would still be possible.
2.Another objection was that the training and retraining component of the
program was far too small; the vast majority of the Jefes participants
who manage to find private sector jobs are high-skilled, but less than 10% of
the Jefes jobs require or provide education and training. Thus the
component of the Jefes program that increases employability must be
enlarged, if many Jefes workers are to transition into skilled jobs. As
we noted above, many program participants agree with this view. However, neither
a child allowance nor unemployment compensation would resolve problems of low
skills or education—indeed, Jefes would have to be superior to either of
these reforms in that respect.
3.Because the program is not universal, there are allocation problems—some
qualifying families registered in time; others did not. Furthermore, women enter
the Jefes program as the head of the household, while the men still
(mostly) work in the informal sector. Hence, some believe that the women really
do not want to work, while those who do want to work (men) are not drawn into
the formal sector. Additionally there are said to be cases of favoritism—for
example, someone who had not signed up for the program in time is still allowed
to participate. Paradoxically, while the administrators agreed that
universalization of the program would eliminate many of the allocation and
corruption problems, some did not favor universalizing Jefes,
making it accessible to all unemployed (not just to the heads of households).
Program cost seemed to be the major objection. We have dealt with budgetary
issues elsewhere, making the case that once Argentina abandoned the currency
board, its federal government could “afford” a universal job guarantee. (See
Tcherneva and Wray 2005a,b,c.)
4.There are also supposed to be poorly designed or mismanaged projects.
The administrators pointed out some cases of wasteful use of government funds:
for example, requesting electric ovens for food-kitchens in areas that lacked
electrification. Note that the Jefes program generally provides only
federal matching funds for capital and materials—which should help to reduce
this kind of abuse. Still it is highly likely that given how fast the Jefes
program was implemented, a lot of the projects could have been poorly designed
and managed. However, there is little doubt that at least some of the projects
(according to the World Bank’s studies, the majority of projects) accomplish
what they set out to do, and are supplying real benefits to communities that go
beyond the wages paid to Jefes participants. If this is true, Jefes
is superior to the reforms, which will not require recipients to perform any
services of use to the communities (aside from providing family allowances that
allow parents to care for their children).
5.Some administrators expressed the concern that the Jefes workers
may be stigmatized because they are associated with the militant picateros. But
as noted above (see footnote 2), picateros organized only 10% of the Jefes
jobs, so if there is indeed such a stigmatization, it is a most unfortunate
development. Still, there are other kinds of stigmatization, as noted above. In
comparison with the envisioned reforms, it is difficult to see how women with
children who move from Jefes to a child allowance stipend will be any
less stigmatized. It is conceivable that those who move from Jefes to
unemployment compensation will be less stigmatized, because they might be seen
as looking for a job. Further, because the unemployment compensation is limited
to a year, this could be seen as more desirable than long-term participation in
Jefes. However, it is not clear what the unemployed individuals will do
if they do not find paid work before their benefits run out—at that point they
could become more stigmatized than if they had remained in Jefes—and much
6.Another concern was that there aren’t enough useful activities for people
to do. Some officials also argued that it is harder to identify useful
activities to be performed in the big city, while in rural areas the task is
much easier. This was an interesting concern and wholly contrary to our
observations in the field—certainly there was much to be done in the Mataderos
neighborhood, and organizers seemed to be able to keep their Jefes
workers busy doing useful things. Perhaps the perception was because
administrators seemed to consider a project to be useful if it was ‘productive’
according to market efficiency criteria. They were more likely to think of the
food kitchens, agro-coops and bakeries as ‘make work’. By contrast, it was our
distinct impression that these projects provided much needed services that the
community did not previously have and many people’s lives depended on them. So
again there was a bias regarding what is considered useful and productive—profit
making enterprises are generally favored by officials over socially beneficial
7.Time and time again, administrators questioned whether Argentina
possesses the necessary institutions, resources, and infrastructure to create
and manage these projects on the required scale. This again was in stark
contrast with our observations. People donated their homes, so that productive
activities would be set up and other people could work there. Others built new
structures or used old ones to set up their job projects. The picateros were
committed, resourceful, and competent organizers. Even the municipal projects
seemed to have committed and skilled organizers who made use of donated land,
buildings, or floor space in supermarkets. The complaint about insufficient
resources was also in contrast with Dr. Marin’s opinion that, in fact, there was
abundant physical and institutional infrastructure, which was being
underutilized. While some of the administrators argued that they had the money
but not the capacity to create and supervise the jobs, Dr Marin claimed that the
capacity was there, but there wasn’t enough political commitment to increase the
budget of the program to the necessary level.
8.Because of the distinction between what is considered productive and
unproductive, there is a big emphasis in Jefes is on creating
micro-enterprises. All administrators favored the use of more micro-enterprises
to provide jobs and marketed products. They offered some good examples of
successful small start-ups (some of which we observed)—things like tailor-shops
or cyber cafes required little money but proved to be market viable and provided
income for the entrepreneurs. This offered to the administrators a ready
measure of program success. The administrators seemed to be reluctant to use
other criteria to evaluate program outcome. Dr. Marin was perhaps the only
administrator who argued that we must reorient our thinking and recognize
socially useful activities as deserving remuneration. Again, we question how a
child allowance or unemployment compensation can be viewed as more “productive”
than Jefes, even on conventional criteria. More importantly, alternative
measures of outcomes are needed to gauge program success.
9.Dr. Marin pointed out that administrators were increasingly coming to the
opinion that government should no longer be driven only by the idea of
downsizing the public sector, but that there was an important role for the
government to play in providing jobs and social security. It was also being
recognized that the government should absorb some of the labor by creating more
public sector jobs, including those outside Jefes. Some administrators,
on the other hand, reported that some of the Jefes workers have already
replaced public sector workers, while others suggested that Jefes workers
did not really replace but actually duplicated the public sector jobs.
10.Another concern was that there were no clear links between Jefes
and industry. What was necessary was a vision of how Jefes activities
can help the overall development and growth of Argentina. These needed to be
It should be
emphasized again that all of the policy makers we met, despite their critiques
of the program, seemed very committed to the problems of unemployment and
poverty. And despite their preference for program reform, some were presently
designing a Jefes program specifically targeted to youths who either
finished high school or dropped out. This new program would help them stay in
school while at the same time giving them an opportunity for vocational training
on the job. We also note that many of the policy makers are committed to
developing new training programs, or enhancing current programs, to help move
people into formal paid work. Some administrators believe this will be more
successful at moving the low skilled women into the formal sector than the
Jefes program has been. All of this is probably true. What seems to be
lacking is an appreciation of the contribution that Jefes makes by
“taking workers as they are” and giving them a chance to work. No amount of
training will ensure that everyone who wants paid formal sector work will be
able to obtain and retain such work.
remains the problem of which activities should be considered as useful and
productive. All jobs (private or public) are presently evaluated primarily
according to private sector, free market efficiency criteria—even though most
officials recognized that there are other benefits of Jefes projects.
Argentina was the poster child of IMF free market policies that were largely
responsible for the social dislocation we observe today. It is clear that free
market ideology sometimes still clouds the mind and prevents new ways of
thinking about how to begin rebuilding a country. There is also, perhaps, a
gender bias that makes it difficult to see “women’s work” as “productive”. All
officials we interviewed agreed that the women in Jefes were doing
important, even necessary, things, however, they were less convinced that these
activities should qualify for pay. If the women organized into micro-enterprises
to sell products in markets, then the market would determine the proper
remuneration. However, if products were distributed freely to neighbors, then
the work was somehow undeserving of remuneration. Of course, these are widely
held views all over the world.
to be a strong force within government that would “evolve” Jefes toward a
more traditional approach—unemployment compensation for the “economically
active” (mostly male) and family allowances for others (mostly women and
children). While Argentina probably does need to add both of these to its as-yet
inadequate arsenal of programs to deal with poverty and unemployment, we believe
that Jefes provides important benefits that will not be forthcoming from
the traditional approach. Our impression is that government officials are
particularly unaware of, or insensitive to, the needs and desires of poor
mothers. We did not find a single woman who said she would prefer a family
allowance over working in Jefes. Yet, most officials (and some
researchers who are critical of the program) do not consider this to be an
important issue—at least, they never brought it up in discussion and have made
no plans to provide work to such women if Jefes is replaced by the more
traditional approach—even though they recognize that many or even most women in
Jefes will not be able to find private sector employment. There is a
danger that “reform” will mean that many women will return to relative isolation
within their substandard houses, in communities that are themselves isolated
from more prosperous society.
appear to be reacting to what they believe to be public sentiment and political
winds—and we have no reason to doubt that their reading is largely correct. What
needs to be done is to publicize the success of Jefes projects, as
measured by a much wider range of indicators than those used to date, such as
numbers of families raised above poverty or indigency lines, numbers of projects
started and completed, sales revenues of micro-enterprises, number of Jefes
workers that have transitioned to formal labor markets, and so on. We also need
studies that will show how the quality of life has improved for women in
Jefes: enhanced social networking, improved school performance of children,
reduction of drug abuse, improved reporting of domestic violence and reduction
of its incidence, greater access to family planning, products and services
delivered free of charge to communities, and so on. We do not want to sound
overly alarmist as the observed popularity of the program among such a large
proportion of the population will probably protect the program at least for
several years. However, there seems to be a real danger that the program could
be eroded because of a lack of understanding of the substantial benefits it
provides. And, in any case, we think the program should be expanded to a
universal job guarantee, rather than being cut or eliminated.
Cuestionario para trabajadores y supervisores
Questionnaire for Jefes workers and supervisors
1.- ¿Que es lo que mas le gusta y le
disgusta de su trabajo?
you like and dislike the most about your job?
2.- ¿Esta usted conforme con su salario y
le alcanza para cubrir sus necesidades básicas?
Are you happy with your salary and is it
sufficient to cover your basic needs?
3.- ¿Cuáles con los gastos mas grandes que
usted realiza con su salario?
are the most important expenditures which you make with this money?
4.- ¿Cuanta gente mantiene usted con su
many people do you support?
5.- ¿Hay alguien mas en su familia a que
contribuya al gasto familiar?
Are there other people in your family who
work to support the family?
6.- ¿Cuántos hijos tiene usted y que estén
estudiando? ¿ Han sido vacunados con todas las vacunas?
How many children do you have and are they
enrolled in school? Do they have the necessary vaccinations?
7.- ¿Cómo llego a esta posición en su
trabajo? ¿Como consiguió el trabajo?
How did you get hired in this position? How
did you find this job?
8.- ¿Obtiene usted algún otro beneficio
aparte del programa de compensación?
Do you get any benefits as part of the
9.- ¿Existen otros programas del gobierno
que usted pueda utilizar? ¿Cuáles?
Are there other government programs which
you use? Which ones?
10.- ¿Que programas usted considera que el
gobierno debiera aplicar y que no esta disponibles en la actualidad?
What programs do you think the government
should implement that are not currently available?
11.- ¿Cuál es el problema mas difícil al
que usted se enfrenta actualmente: 1) mantener a la familia, 2) acceso a la
educación, 3) encontrar trabajo, 4) gastos de salud, 5) otro?
What are the most significant difficulties
for you at this point: 1) supporting family, 2) getting education, 3) finding a
job, 4) providing for your health, 5) other?
12.- ¿El programa Jefes le ayuda a
solventar esos problemas?
Jefes help you deal with these?
13.- ¿Cuál es la mayor dificultad que
enfrenta usted como supervisor (trabajador) del proyecto Jefes?
What are the biggest challenges you face as
a supervisor (worker) of a Jefes project?
14.- ¿Considera que la gente que trabaja
para o con usted tienen ética laboral? ¿Toman en
serio su trabajo y los desarrollan adecuadamente?
Do you think the people who work for you
(who work with you) have good work ethic? Do they take their job seriously and
do they perform well?
15.- ¿Cómo considera se comparan con otros
trabajadores que no pertenecen al proyecto Jefes?
How do you think they compare to non-Jefes
16.- ¿Considera usted que el trabajo que
ellos o usted realiza es útil, o solo genera mas trabajo?
Do you think the work that they do (that
you do) is useful or do you consider it “make work”?
17.- ¿Se enfrenta usted a mucha burocracia
o papeleo como supervisor o trabajador del programa Jefes? Cuantiosa o no mucha
Do you deal with a lot of bureaucracy or
administration as a supervisor (as a worker)? Too
much, not enough?
18.- ¿Tiene usted todo el apoyo
gubernamental que requiere par supervisar o trabajar en este proyecto?
Do you have all the support in terms of
governmental services that you need to oversee (to participate in) these
19.- ¿Considera que el proyecto Jefes es
eficientemente ejecutado o es necesario hacerlo mas eficaz?
Do you think the Jefes project is
efficiently executed? Should it be made more efficient?
20.- ¿Le es asignado un tiempo limitado
para terminar el proyecto o es un proyecto en proceso?
Are you given a certain time limit to
complete this project or is this an on-going project?
21.- ¿Si le es asignado un tiempo limitado
par terminar el proyecto, al finalizarlo se le asigna otro mas?
If there is a time limit, will you be
assigned to another after it is finished?
22.- ¿Los supervisores obtienen su salario
en función a una escala de capacitación? ¿Ganan lo
suficiente o demasiado?
Do all Jefes supervisors get paid
according to a skills-pay scale? Do
they get paid enough? Too much?
23.- ¿Considera que este trabajo beneficia
a los trabajadores? ¿en que sentido?
Do you think the job benefits the workers?
24 ¿Si no tuviera el trabajo de Jefes, que
es lo que usted haría? ¿Considera que si Jefes no existiera, los beneficiarios
como usted podrían encontrar trabajo en algún otro lado?
If you didn’t have the Jefes job
what would you do? Do you think that if Jefes did not exist, the
beneficiaries (you) would be able to find a job elsewhere?
25.- En caso de ser así, ¿Dónde seria más
probable encontrar trabajo en el sector formal o informal?
If ‘yes’, where are they (you) more likely
to get a job – in the formal or informal sector?
26.- En caso contrario, ¿Qué considera
usted, harían los trabajadores beneficiarios de Jefes si cancelaran este
If ‘no’, what do you think would the
beneficiaries (you) do if Jefes is cancelled?
27.- ¿Considera que existe mucha
corrupción en el programa de Jefes?
Do you personally see a lot of corruption
28.- ¿Qué tipo de corrupción básicamente?
¿Considera usted que este es un gran problema?
What kind of corruption primarily? Do you
perceive this as a huge problem?
29.- ¿Cuáles son los principales problemas
en el programa Jefes? ¿Y los principales beneficios?
What are the main problems with the
Jefes program? The
30.- ¿Esta usted de acuerdo con la actual
política del gobierno de conducir a las mujeres hacia el programa de Familias?
Anteriormente las mujeres que eran cabeza de familia tenían que trabajar para
obtener los benéficos. ¿Considera que esto fue un
Do you agree with the government’s current
policy of moving women to the Familias program? Before women (who were
heads of household) had to work in order to get the benefit. Do you think this
was a better arrangement?
31.- ¿Considera que el programa Jefes fue
una buena idea?
Do you think Jefes was a good idea?
32.- ¿Este programa contribuyo a aliviar la
Did it help to soften the recession?
33.- ¿Considera usted que el programa
debería ser cancelado? ¿Considera que debería ser generalizado?
Do you think the program should be
cancelled? Do you think it should be universalized?
34.- ¿Considera que fue una buena idea
limitar la participación solamente a los cabezas de familia?
Do you think it was a good idea to limit
participation to Heads of Household only?
35.- ¿Tiene dificultades para obtener el
materia para su proyecto?
Do you have problem obtaining materials for
36.- ¿Tiene dificultad para obtener
financiamiento para su proyecto?
Do you have problem obtaining funding for
For Further Reading:
Forstater, M. 2001. “Full Employment Policies Must Consider
Effective Demand and Structural and Technological Change”. C-FEPS Working
Paper No 14.
Forstater, M. 2001. “Full Employment and Environmental
Sustainability”. C-FEPS Working Paper No 13.
Kostzer, D. 2004. “Globalization and Disarticulation: the
Road to Exclusion in Latin America”. C-FEPS Seminar Paper No 36.
Kregel, J.A. 2003. “The Perils of Globalization – Structural,
Cyclical and Systemic Causes of Unemployment”. C-FEPS Seminar Paper No 13.
Kregel, J.A. 2002. “An Alternative View of the Argentine
Crisis: Structural Flaws in Structural Adjustment Policy”. C-FEPS Seminar
Paper No 12.
Mosler, W. 1997-98. “Full Employment and Price Stability”.
Journal of Post Keynesian Economics. 20 (2). Winter: 167-182.
Neubourg, C., Castonguay, J. and K. Roelen. 2005. “Social
Safety Nets and Targeted Social Assistance: Lessons from the European
Experience” World Bank Briefings. http://www1.worldbank.org/sp/safetynets/Training_Events/OECD_3-05/EU_Briefing_Book.pdf
Tcherneva, P. and L. R. Wray. 2005a. “Is Jefes de Hogar
an Employer of Last Resort program?: An assessment of Argentina’s ability to
deliver the promise of full employment and price stability”. C-FEPS Working
Paper No 43.
Tcherneva, P. and L. R. Wray. 2005b. “Common Goals -
Different Solutions: Can Basic Income and Job Guarantees Deliver Their Own
Promises”. C-FEPS Working Paper No 42.
Tcherneva, P. and L. R. Wray. 2005c. “Employer of Last
Resort: A Case Study of Argentina's Jefes Program”. C-FEPS Working
Paper No 41.
Wray, L.R. 1998. Understanding Modern Money: The Key to
Full Employment and Price Stability. Northampton: Edward Elgar.
 For example, the Ministry of
Labor collects data on Jefes beneficiaries, which is available
monthly and lists all workers (by name and registry number) involved in
the projects of each municipality.
 Picateros participating in the
Jefes plan are said to be less than 10% of total participants.
 The organization “Barrios de
Pie” which Gladis headed is part of a bigger political movement called
“Patria Libre”—one of the collaborative picatero movements in the
country working closely with the government to create jobs. Some
picatero groups continue to shun collaboration with the government.