Work in Argentina

Worker at the Zanon plant - Neuquén

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.

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MERCOSUR, a South American free trade agreement signed by Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Brazil, was formed in 1991 to encourage trade among the four countries and allow these countries to compete internationally.


The richest Argentinians are traditional families that have developed agricultural business 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, industries and factories. Trade unions are very active and well organized, play an important part in workers' lives.

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 2000s have eased some of the effects of the economic crises, but the unemployment rate is still around 9.5% but declining.

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