For much of its history, Argentina was an
agricultural nation. Farmers grew wheat on the fertile Pampas and raised
cattle and sheep on large ranches. Today, only about 10% of the Argentinian
labour force works in agriculture. Most Argentinians now work in the service
sector, the oil and gas industry, mining, shipbuilding, or the food, tobacco
and automotive industries. Most factories are in port cities. For this
reason, the port cities have attracted job seekers from rural areas and
immigrants. Did you know?
The Argentinian currency has changed twice in the past
14 years. In 1985, it changed from the peso to the austral. In 1992, the
government introduced the nuevo peso argentino.
The richest Argentinians are the politicians and the
owners and senior executives of large companies, who enjoy a luxurious
lifestyle. The poorest are those who occupy the villas miserias (slums)
and can find only low-paid work such as shining shoes or working as street
vendors. Between these two extremes are Argentinians who are paid workers
on farms and in offices, schools, hospitals and factories. Trade unions,
which used to be highly active and well organized, no longer play an important
part in workers' lives as they did in the past.
In small towns, shops and offices shut down for lunch
and people may take a siesta (rest) from work during the hottest part of
the day. Two to three hours later, businesses reopen and stay open until
closing time, which can be as late as 9 p.m.
Rapid growth and development since the late 19th century
has brought more women into the workforce. Women currently make up nearly
40% of the workforce and one third of Argentinian households have women
as the main breadwinners. Argentina was one of the first Latin American
countries to enact legislation regulating working conditions for women
and children. The Socialist Party passed the bill in 1907.
Economic problems in the 1980s and 1990s have made it
necessary for many Argentinians to work at two or even three jobs to pay
for housing and feed their families. Government policies in the 1990s have
eased some of the effects of the economic crises, but the unemployment
rate is still higher than 13%.