BUENOS AIRES – Plenty of Argentines already continue to work past the retirement age due to economic need and their ranks may increase dramatically now that Congress has passed a controversial pensions overhaul.
The plan, which spurred large and sometimes violent protests and a nationwide general strike, could affect nearly 7 million pensioners.
In a nation where the government has traditionally been in arrears to retirees, a late-life second career in the underground economy is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Sara Lafourcade, who retired last year from her formal job as a hospital administrator in Buenos Aires, says she continues to work because she doesn’t want to become a burden on her only child.
Her pension is only about half what her salary was, the 68-year-old told EFE during an event in the capital.
“The retirees here, we are fine, more or less. We’re not sick. We are looking at the possibility of finding something to help because we are in a very expensive country. We have many taxes, the rates for water, electricity, gas have gone up and we can’t make ends meet with the pensions we get,” Lafourcade said.
The minimum monthly pension payment, 7,620 pesos ($424), is only $138 above Argentina’s official poverty line.
Under the bill approved last week, pension payments are to be readjusted quarterly based on a radically different formula and workers will have the “option” of delaying retirement until 70.
Rolando Amaro, an 81-year-old economic consultant, says that while he is happy to continue working in his profession as long as he’s able, he is concerned about the effect of the change on future generations.
“What worries is not so much what is happening to us, but the situation of my children, of my grandchildren and what is waiting for them,” he said, acknowledging that he could not survive on the minimum pension.
The Buenos Aires municipal office for elder affairs calculates that a person 65 or older needs an income of at least $973 a month to get by in this capital.
Even some affluent retirees are indignant about the situation.
“I have had to cut back on a whole pile of things, though I don’t receive a tiny pension. I have my house and I can manage,” retired telecommunications engineer Jorge Szkolnik told EFE.
“We have many retirees who get the minimum and live very, very badly. And with each little peso you take away from them, they live even worse,” he said.