The Argentinean Association of Social Policy (AAPS) was created in 2000 with the purpose of bringing relevance to the sphere of thought and action related to social issues. It is an interdisciplinary initiative open to different political or ideological affiliations; and it works on the understanding that the social politics? field cannot be restricted to speculation but that the ideas and thoughts need to be rooted in social action and in the experiences of people who work on a daily basis to promote the individual and his social background.
This is why one of AAPS's principal goals is to create spaces to exchange ideas and experiences, in which all can improve their knowledge, the professional as well as the volunteer, those who manage as well as those who render services, the public sector as well as the private sector, and everyone who is by any means related, by his/her concern in obtaining better equity in the society.
The AAPS is an institution that has grown with the volunteer work of people interested in social issues and is funded by the contributions of its members and collaborators.
- Bring together people and institutions experienced and interested in the study of social policy.
- Spread, promote and diffuse the development of knowledge in social politics at an institutional level and stimulate the training of human resources interested in this subject.
- Foster and support studies, investigations and publications on subjects relating to social policy and spread their results.
- Create relations and maintain exchanges between similar entities - national, foreign and international ones - and foster training in the Argentinean Republic.
The Association's areas of analysis
The AAPS was born with the vocation to become a space of analysis and thinking in matters of social policy, understanding "those policies as a more or less coherent group of principles and actions administered by the State, that define the distribution and the social control of a population's well-being through policy" (Herrera and Caston, 2003). Social policies play a fundamental role, as they contribute to the development of the individual, his/her family and his/her context, and in this way help guarantee social cohesion, well-being and social protection.
To understand the role that social policies play in the current situation, it is necessary to make a brief reference to how they have evolved. During the 19th century, State action was based on the idea of charity; it was considered that social politics had to focus on the "deserving poor" as they were called, groups that were excluded from the labour market and living in conditions of extreme poverty, who received state help, mostly from organizations of the civil society. By the end of the 19th century, a new approach emerged: it would give an answer to the needs of those poor people who didn't benefit from the charity: the workers. In this period, social security would be configured, based on a tripartite system of financing, in which the workers, the employers and the State were the contributors. Post Second World War, a new phase was opened, in which the concept of citizenship began to be linked to social policy. This third approach proposed the universality of social services, which had to be free to access for everybody and had to be financed by the government.
On this matter, it is important to clarify that although each new scheme supposed an evolution in relation to the previous one, this doesn't imply a disappearance of the previous guidelines. Therefore, this results in the coexistence of three principles that mark different kinds of social politics: discretionary nature (social assistance programs), contribution (programs for the workers) and citizenship (universal politics for every citizen).
Taking this into account, we could say that in Argentina we are in a transition step, going from social politics based on discretionary policies to a scheme of universalization of rights. In that context, and taking into account the high levels of poverty and inequality that exist in our country, we consider that it is a priority to launch interventions in matters of social politics, giving rise to a decentralized scheme, which includes different modalities of participation (and integrating actors who are not in the government's field). Also, we are convinced that, in order to achieve this new scenario, carefully considered work in the long term is essential, with maintained efforts and actions that tend towards more complex approaches, which focus not only on basic needs. It will be possible to accomplish successful social policies only if we adopt a perspective of inclusion and subjective rights.
In the mean time, we are aware of the fact that this is not a simple task, because the process of social policy's elaboration and implementation is stopped due to important debates -for example when it comes to the redistributive role of the State- and opinions coming from different sectors.
There exists a challenge in achieving a better coordination and collaboration between the three central agents of social policy: the State, the market and the Civil Society (family, social organizations and third sector), in order to move forward with answers that involve different actors and with more efficient social policy. With the AAPS, we have the capacity to contribute to this process, and that is why we attempt to constantly generate debate and reflection about social policies in our country and in the region.
The conception of poverty has been evolving over centuries. At first the level of incomes was used as an indicator, and we talked about "absolute poverty", in reference to those individuals who couldn't count on minimum incomes to cover their needs.
Later, it was noticed that although the level of incomes was a base for the measurement of the people's well being, it was not the only factor to take into account. The studies then began to highlight the distributive considerations (with measures like the Lorenz curve and the Gini coefficient), based on the idea that inequality is a phenomenon that is linked to poverty and that it is only by dealing with those issues that it will be possible to access to more inclusive societies.
Furthermore, there has been a move to start analysing poverty with the incorporation of other key factors such as social and human context, as the Human Development Index demonstrates, that index defining the level of development of societies not exclusively depending on the GDP, but also on variables such as education or life expectancy are more effective. During the last decades, this change of perspective was enriched with the contribution of various authors (principally Amartya Sen) who emphasized new parameters; among them, we could stress the freedom and capacity to choose.
According to data provided by the World Bank, almost 3 billion inhabitants of the world live on less than $2 a day and 1.2 billion survive with less than $1 a day. As the data underlines it, the eradication of poverty is one of the challenges exposed in every State's agenda, but with a different emphasis, depending on the development of each country but also on the social, political and cultural context.
In Latin-American countries, poverty is considered nowadays as one of the main obstacles limiting their development, because it has an impact on different fields: increase of vulnerability, lack of opportunities, dependence, and diseases, among others. In Argentina's case, it is estimated that right now 13,2% (INDEC) of the population lives under the poverty level.
Therefore, we believe that it is necessary to find a consensus between the State, civil society and the private sector, to face the issue of poverty. This is why the AAPS suggests that in the analytical area of "poverty", we should diffuse thinking, generate tools, and discuss concepts and modalities of intervention that allow a better precision and efficiency in diagnosis and actions about situations of poverty and marginalization, but mostly that enable the adoption of an integral and human approach in the understanding of the phenomenon of poverty and of people who suffer from it.
Since its creation, the Asociacion Argentina de Politicas Sociales has been generating spaces of reflection between legislators, politicians, specialists and citizens in general, who work together to find a predictable legal framework of social inclusion in Argentina today.
The necessity of this task finds its base in the substantial increase in poverty over the last few years, as well as in the crisis of the institutional model, known as the "Social Welfare State", predominated in Argentina since 1945. The legislation that came into force at this time was the first attempt at politicizing universal social citizenship, taking into account the laws surrounding work and community participation.
The change of the socioeconomic conditions, that has occurred in the last decades, led to recession: it provoked uncertainty when it came to the full enjoyment of social citizenship and, moreover, restricted the "economic citizenship" understood as the capacity of all citizens to be included in the market, either as demanders of goods and services that cover basic needs or as suppliers of the only goods that the majority of them owns: labour.
The contrast between the current legislation and the social reality can be seen by the fact that a big part of the social legislation (social security) is linked to formal work, to which less than half of the active workers have access to.
Moreover, it is important to point out that the people who reformed the Constitution in 1994 incorporated the National Constitution subsection 19 of the article 75 -or new clause of progress- that announces that an ability of the Congress is: "...to provide what is necessary for human development, for economic progress with social justice, for productivity of the national economy, for the increase of employment, for the professional training of workers...", and added in the subsection 23 the ability and duty to "legislate and promote positive ways of action that guarantee the real equality of chances and treatment, and the full enjoyment and exercise of rights given by the Constitution and by the International Treaties in force about Human Rights, particularly regarding children, women, the elderly, and disabled people".
Our organization therefore decided to begin to clarify and give answers to the questions of various people:
What is the current situation of legislation in the social policy matters? How can the social policy handled by the Executive Power guarantee universal and constitutionally recognized social rights? How can the current legislation be adapted and modified to give answers to the deep changes occurring during the last decades? What normative context, general and specific, can boost and promote social inclusion? How can legislation plan the necessary fiscal resources in order to comply with the rules, in a context of budget restriction?
In this context, the Asociación Argentina de Políticas Sociales developed a series of meetings in which were presented the points of view of people well known for their experience in these matters and in which various legislative initiatives that tried to give answers to the crisis, suggesting a new "social contract"" that would allow social and economic integration of the sectors currently excluded.
The movement of people across different territories in search of a better life is a process almost as old as civilization itself. However, due to processes of globalisation, the flow of migration for reasons of work, education and health, amongst other factors, is increasing dramatically in magnitude. Entire populations move across borders, creating great challenges for their country of exodus just as much as their country of destination.
In this context it is possible to notice that even if Argentina has been characterized from its very beginning as a country who receives migrants, in reality this process, especially concerning its neighbouring countries, presents Argentina with a difficult task of implementing social policies of planning and control. This is mostly due to the problems of sudden displacement as well as the diversity of migrants in respect to how they will integrate into the Argentinian society. It is posible to distinguish between situations as diverse as: people who settle in a new country for economic of environmental reasons; those who come to take advantage of public services such as healthcare; those who move across the border for reasons of temporary or seasonal work etc.
The proof that immigration has become a subject high on the agenda of the leaders is the introduction of the "Law of Migration No 25.871", which seeks to establish and improve the rights of those entering the country for whatever reason, even those who have an irregular situation. This law guarantees medical attention and enrollment in schools, both public and private. However if the correct documentation is not presented for the right to be in the country, the case must be dealt with by the authorities on an individual basis before these benefits can be given. Moreover, while individual cases are being processed, migrants are still entitled to some social assistance, even while being 'illegal'. In particular, in an attempt to keep the labour market fair and clean, the law determines penalties for those who offer work to persons who are here illegally. Furthermore, the countries of the Mercosur have an agreement that their citizens are able to remain in other countries within the community for two years with entitlement to benefits.
On the basis of these observations, AAPS suggests to clarify the circumstances of immigrants and generate demands for how best to reconcile social policies of integration, planning and control on the subject of immigration.
Like many of the fundamental concepts discussed in the frame of social sciences, it is difficult to determine a precise definition of what is meant by 'the family'. Although it is an institution dating back centuries it has not been static, but has constantly been changing in context throughout its history as an institution. For a long time, concepts of the family were based on two parents with a small number of children; important sociologists such as Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons named this concept 'The Nuclear Family'. This model corresponds with the rapid modernization, urbanization and industrialization of western society. However, over time it has been repeatedly shown that this form is by no means exclusive, but coexists amongst a myriad of other forms of the family. In today's society it is increasingly observed that biological relationships do not necessarily correspond with domestic relationships. Therefore, it is now possible to find a multitude of forms the family now takes: single parent families; second families (through divorce, separation and remarriage ); unmarried partnerships; same-sex marriages/partnerships.
Where a consensus does exist is in the importance that the family is considered as an institution within society. This is shown in numerous official text and documents that defend the family as an integral part of the organization of society. In our constitution it states that "...the law will establish the integral protection of the family..."" (ART14 BIS), while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that "the family is a natural entity and fundamental to society and is entitled to protection by the society and the state." (ART. 17, INCISO 1, 1948).
Furthermore, the family acts as a nucleus that encompasses all aspects of the organization of society. It is the basis of education, socialization, the internalization of norms and values, and support in adverse situations such as unemployment or illness. It is for these reasons that contemporary writers (such as Esping Anderson, Serrano) and institutions (CEPAL; UNFPA; UNIFEM) promote the view that to confront the grandest social problems of today like homeless children, the rise in drug addiction, sexual abuse and domestic violence, it is necessary to design social policies that focus just as much on the family as the individual.
We believe that understanding the relationship between the individual and the family has enormous potential in tackling social problems. Although up until now special emphasis has been put on the individual and the capacity of a person to construct their own destiny, it is also important to observe that individuals are a product of environmental factors such as family characteristics and group membership which determine their position within the social structure. With this in mind, it is no surprise that in the last decades, along with the number of important changes in context that have occurred (types of relationships, changes in gender roles, domestic duties), the family is now not just considered in the private area, but as an important role in the political and legislative agenda.
All of this compels AAPS to treat the family as a central line of investigation. We intend to do this not only by putting the knowledge acquired in our research projects into the public domain, but by actively designing new public policy measures and legislation that adhere to contemporary and rapidly changing conceptions of the family.
The decline of poverty in Argentina, after the crisis, correlating with a reduction in unemployment and an increase in net income, has been an outstanding social phenomenon. But there is still an important challenge that Argentinian society needs to confront: A large number of its citizens have remained in a vulnerable state of poverty despite the improving economic situation and are shown to have severe problems fully integrating into society. This is what is known as chronic or persistent poverty.
This is an extremely complex subject from an analytical and a public policy point of view. There are many different arguments for how best to priorities the problem of inequality and reconciling these different schools of thought is a difficult task that requires much reflexion.
For the most vulnerable section of the population, the cycle of poverty becomes increasingly more difficult to leave over time and reproduces itself across generations. For this reason, the problem of persistent poverty requires a scope of systemic action: looking at community, life choices, the principal causes of vulnerability and the possibilities of stable integration into the jobs market. Furthermore, economic policies are required which address the structural problems as to why those in chronic poverty only work in conditions of very low productivity.
We believe the principle problem for this persistence in inequity is a lack of appropriate public policy or a 'structural silence'. However, there are many other possible factors involved. Therefore, it is important to undertake an in-depth analysis of the causes and effects of chronic poverty.
Finally we must mention that the problem of persistent poverty represents a particularly important challenge for the state: To devise a more comprehensive alternative to the traditional modes of economic distribution and access, born from a more thorough interaction between economic and social policy, taking into account all aspects of life in a state of persistent poverty.
It is necessary to measure all dimensions of this diverse problem: to take into account subjective and social perspectives of chronic poverty over a significant period of time; to try and reconcile different schools of thought; to work out how best to monitor and evaluate the problem and to determine from a constitutional perspective, what kind of institution would be able to implement sustainable solutions to the problems we identify in the public apparatus.
We believe that to develop the politics of gender we must end the idea that inequality between men and women is something natural, and introduce the theme of gender inequality as its own entity on the policy agenda. Our goal is to translate this into the implementation of concrete policies which eliminate the legal, economic, social and cultural barriers that women in particular face, which persist and have impeded society from arriving at a situation of effective gender equality.
For this motive it is necessary to apply the politics of equality to all of society's institutions and modify the relations that exist between its public and private spheres. Only in this way is it possible for us to break down the cultural and political norms that sustain the hierarchies between men and women.
The notion of gender is a social construction that reproduces different practices for men and women. History shows us that gender models for both sexes vary greatly across time and between cultures. This indicates that gender roles are not based on biological facts but on cultural and social definitions.
Since its conception, Western society has been patriarchal and has produced an experience of subordination and material inequality for women. This is clearly shown today through the fact that more women than men are living in a situations of poverty, exploitation and deprivation of material resources.
At a cultural level, one is able to say that women live in a state of subservience to men. This is reflected in various social mechanisms, for example, sexual abuse, domestic violence, objectification in the media, their exclusion from the world of politics and the negation of their rights in law. This discrimination also extends to the labour market and at the heart of the family.
Although today in the West, legal barriers have been eliminated for women in the sphere of public life, there as still many indirect discriminatory practice that persist across all institutions in society. We can take the labour market as an example. Across the world there still exists an integral inequality between the level of salaries of men and women, as well as between the numbers of opportunities for employment. These social facts demonstrate the analogy of 'the glass ceiling' in which women are impeded from reaching the top of the professional hierarchy. Although there are exceptions, it is generally considered that women who enter into professional careers do so at the detriment of their family lives or are expected to work on a double schedule.
Other data which accounts for developing nations, shows that a higher percentage of jobs in the informal or hidden sector are occupied by women. This type of world, although it is very important in maintaining the economic system of the country, is not considered to be valid (not accountable for its contribution to the formal economy) and therefore not accompanied by the same rights that are reserved for workers in the formal economy. The consequences of the scheme of limited social policy is a persistence of discrimination between gender roles. Not only does it reinforce the mandate of men but also deepens the problem now known as the "feminisation of poverty", which refers to those women persistently excluded from social assistance, which in term has a detrimental effect on the families whom they support.