BUENOS AIRES – Since Argentina’s latest economic crisis erupted last year, with the peso depreciating sharply and inflation soaring, people have turned to international telecommuting as a means of earning income in stable currencies without emigrating abroad.
While the peso was trading at roughly 20 per United States dollar 12 months ago, it has since depreciated to a record low of 46 per greenback in recent weeks, generating a climate of instability in Argentina.
Additionally, uncertainty surrounding October’s presidential elections – and the prospect that incumbent, market-friendly President Mauricio Macri will lose his bid for re-election – have rattled global financial markets.
While Argentines have long saved money in dollars as a hedge against high inflation (which currently is running at 54 percent annually), they now are looking to international telecommuting as a way to earn income in greenbacks.
That has led to growth in platforms such as Freelancer, which, according to its vice president for Latin America, Sebastian Sieles, offers workers the possibility of connecting with companies anywhere in the world.
“When there’s an employment or currency crisis in a country, people start to worry and say, ‘What can I do? How do I protect myself against depreciation?’” Sieles told EFE at his office in Buenos Aires.
“That’s where they increasingly come to our platform and say, ‘How do I start ... leaving a purely local exposure and expose myself internationally?”
Communication technology has broken down borders and allowed companies in the world’s biggest markets to seek talented workers elsewhere.
“The markets showing the greatest demand for talent are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Knowing English is always a plus,” said the VP of Freelancer, a platform on which more than 10,000 job opportunities are generated every day, most of them linked to the “creative economy and the digital economy.”
Argentines, meanwhile, also are looking to the US, UK and Europe for employment opportunities, especially considering that the more the peso depreciates the greater the purchasing power of those earning income in dollars, euros or pounds.
One such case is that of Giannina Gastaldo, an architect from the central province of Cordoba who started working with foreign companies sporadically three years ago but has begun doing so on an exclusive basis over the past six months.
“I’d been doing this work when I had free time. But starting late last year, when the dollar rose sharply and the situation in construction slowed here in Argentina, I started devoting all of my time and it worked out really well for me because I make all my income in dollars, and with (the exchange rate) in Argentina that works out really well for me,” she said.
She says international telecommuting also entails other benefits.
“The truth is I want to stay like this, firstly because of the peace of mind I have. Besides, here in Argentina it’s hard to trust people, whether they’re going to pay you or not. The truth is that you never have that problem with clients abroad,” she said.
But even though the weak peso benefits Gastaldo in the short term, she said she hopes the currency strengthens in the future for the good of the country and to reduce inflation.
Jorge Javier Pierini’s situation is similar.
A systems engineer from La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province, he also finds himself torn between his own personal interest and that of his country.
“I don’t want (the peso) to collapse, but the flip side is this does benefit me. When I started, the dollar-peso exchange rate was one dollar, nine pesos. Today we’re at 45-46,” he told EFE.
Pierini has been working via international telecommuting for nearly five years, having linked up with clients in Australia, the US, the UK and many other countries, and says he values the peace of mind this arrangement affords him.
“It gives you extra tranquility. The situation in the country is complicated,” he said.