In February, the basic food basket (CBA) climbed 11.7 percent compared to the previous month, so that in order not to be destitute, a family of four needed an income of no less than 80,483 pesos, according to Indec. while the total basic basket (CBT) increased 8.3 percent in the same period, that is to say that in order not to be poor, a typical family had to compute income greater than 177,063 pesos.
These variations outperformed retail inflation, which in the month was 6.6 percent. They respond to the preponderant weight that the item of food and beverages has in the baskets, which in February recorded a monthly increase of 9.8 percent. inflation by CBA in the first two months of the year accumulated an increase of 20 percent and CBT of 16 percent, while the retail average rose 13.1.
“Wages do not reach that rate of increase, so their purchasing power continues to deteriorate. To mention just one fact, the Minimum salary, vital and movil in February it was 67,743 pesos, which is not even enough to acquire the CBA for a typical family and would cover only 38 percent of the CBT. This proportion has fallen sharply from 2015 onwards”, warns Mariana González from the Center for Research and Training of the Argentine Republic (Cifra).
Indeed, the bulk of parities resumed from March and the hectic trend in prices in the first two months will be an important determining factor. “While the CPI increased 102.5 percent between February 2022 and the same month this year, the CBT increased 111.3 and the CBA 115.1 percent in the same period,” adds González.
For his part, Hernán Letcher, from the Center for Political Economy (STRAIN) compares the evolution of the cost of the CBT with the median of the average salary in the registered private sector, that is, with the salary that accumulates half of all the records. “The data for February confirm the phenomenon of poor worker since the median of the remunerations of the private wage earners continue to be 12 points below the value of the CBT of a typical home”, maintains CEPA. The behavior of this series shows that the measurement remained practically stable throughout 2022, although in negative values, but the records have increased since the beginning of 2023.
“The lower income sectors obviously they have been more affected because the inflation of their consumption moved not only above the inflation average but of food as a whole”, adds Letcher.
Ana Paula di Giovambattista, from the Metropolitan University for Education and Work (Umet), details that “in lower-income households, the expense structure is concentrated in food, transportation, rent and utilities”. When analyzing the statistics published by INDEC, di Giovambattista acknowledges that “within the framework of a generalized phenomenon of flattening of the social pyramid, a thickening of the most vulnerable segment of the population is being generated, given that it is increasingly difficult to cover the cost of CBA, so indigence would increase at a higher rate than poverty”.
It should be noted that the increase of 11.7 percent of the CBA surpassed the record of 9.5 last October, which in turn had been the largest increase recorded since the exit of Convertibility in April 2002. February was a bloody month in terms of price increases in sensitive foods and drinks as the meat, which presented increases of more than 30 percent in a single month. This occurred since after the drought forced a large part of the cattle to slaughter at the end of 2022, the sector recomposed values at the beginning of this year, but in many cases the increases were excessive. Meanwhile, the citrus which rose almost 70 percent, the rice 14 percent and eggs, 13.2 percent, according to official data from INDEC.
Finally, it should be remembered that the values of the CBA and the CBT allow inducing the indigence and poverty that exists in the country. But the number of people under this condition, according to the latest data available by the end of 2022, is estimated using other statistics and will be released by INDEC in May of this year.