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What Do Poor Women Want? Public Employment or Cash Transfers? Lessons from Argentina

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  • Pavlina R. Tcherneva

Abstract

The literature on public employment policies such as the job guarantee (JG) and the employer of last resort (ELR) often emphasizes their macroeconomic stabilization effects. But carefully designed and implemented policies like these can also have profound social transformative effects. In particular, they can help address enduring economic problems such as poverty and gender disparity. To examine how, this paper will look at the reform of Argentina's Plan Jefes into Plan Familias. Plan Jefes was the hallmark stabilization policy of the Argentine government after the 2001 crisis. It guaranteed a public sector job in a community project to unemployed male and female heads of households. The vast majority of beneficiaries, however, turned out to be poor women. For a number of reasons that are explored below, the program was later reformed into a cash transfer policy, known as Plan Familias, that still exists today. The paper examines this reform in order to evaluate the relative impact of such policies on some of the most vulnerable members of society; namely, poor women. An examination of the Argentine experience based on survey evidence and fieldwork reveals that poor women overwhelmingly want paid work opportunities, and that a policy such as the JG or the ELR cannot only guarantees full employment and macroeconomic stabilization, but it can also serve as an institutional vehicle that begins to transform some of the structures and norms that produce and reproduce gender disparities. These transformative features of public employment policies are elucidated by turning to the capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen and elaborated by Martha Nussbaum-an approach commonly invoked in the feminist literature. This paper examines how the access to paid employment can enhance what Sen defines as an individual's "substantive freedom." Any policy that fosters genuine freedom begins with an understanding of what the targeted population (in this case, poor women) wants. It then devises a strategy that guarantees that such opportunities exist and removes the obstacles to accessing these opportunities.

Suggested Citation

  • Pavlina R. Tcherneva, 2012. "What Do Poor Women Want? Public Employment or Cash Transfers? Lessons from Argentina," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_705, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_705
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rania Antonopoulos, 2007. "The Right to a Job, the Right Types of Projects: Employment Guarantee Policies from a Gender Perspective," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_516, Levy Economics Institute.
    2. Stephanie Seguino & Caren A. Grown, 2006. "Feminist-Kaleckian Macroeconomic Policy for Developing Countries," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_446, Levy Economics Institute.
    3. Karl Widerquist, 1998. "Reciprocity and the Guaranteed Income," Macroeconomics 9808009, EconWPA.
    4. Hayo, Bernd, 1999. "Knowledge and Attitude Towards European Monetary Union," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, pages 641-651.
    5. Daniel Kostzer, 2008. ""Argentina--A Case Study on the Plan Jefes y Jefas de Hogar Desocupados, or the Employment Road to Economic Recovery," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_534, Levy Economics Institute.
    6. Karl Widerquist, 1999. "Reciprocity and the Guaranteed Income," Politics & Society, , vol. 27(3), pages 387-402, September.
    7. L. Randall Wray, 1998. "Modern Money," Macroeconomics 9810002, EconWPA.
    8. Caren A. Grown, 2006. "Quick Impact Initiatives For Gender Equality: A Menu of Options," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_462, Levy Economics Institute.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Capabilities Approach; Employer of Last Resort; Job Guarantee; Basic Income; Cash Transfers; Public Employment; Gender Inequality; Poverty; Plan Jefes; Plan Familias; Argentina;

    JEL classification:

    • B54 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Feminist Economics
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E26 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Informal Economy; Underground Economy
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • E65 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Studies of Particular Policy Episodes
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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