The debate over public sector wagesIt resurfaced in the public sphere, along with data that already reflects an acute crisis in the Argentine economy, due to local factors and the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. In this context, the numbers always help to make the diagnoses and to look for solutions, beyond the cracks and the effective slogans.
Wages in public administration represent about 15% of current spending. This percentage rises to 50% in the provinces, although many are well above the average.
Net salaries for executive positions in the national government are, on average, around $ 250,000 for a minister, $ 200,000 for a secretary, $ 150,000 for an undersecretary, and $ 120,000 for a national director.
According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office that directs Marcos Makón “While between 2010 and 2015 a sustained growth in employment was identified (with an increase of more than 20% in the period); between 2016 and 2018 the general trend has been downward, exhibiting a decrease of close to 8% in the National Executive Branch ”.
The average gross general salary for this universe was $ 60,748 in 2019, but most of the occupation was concentrated below this level (64.2%); the distribution average is $ 48,463, according to the OPC, based on data from last year.
“Average salaries are higher in companies and in decentralized organizations and, unlike the general level, the Foreign Service of the Nation, the Judiciary and Collective Labor Conventions, have a high percentage of their endowment with average salaries higher than $ 66,000 ”, he clarified.
In the provinces, information is much more difficult to verify: despite continued requests from national officials, there was very little feedback. It is known that the total spending on salaries of the provinces is about 180 billion pesos a month.
Anyway, a work of the UCES Institute of Labor and Social Studies He makes some important clarifications: “Usually public employment is associated with tasks related to government management. However, the survey of the now Secretary of Employment realized that little more than half of the jobs are divided into only two services: education and the police, and that those actually dedicated to the administration are less than a quarter of the total.
On the other hand, it specifies that “the least intensive provinces in public employment, below the national average of 5.4% of its inhabitants, are those with the highest concentration of residents and largest, not only geographically but also in their contribution to the generation of wealth: Good Aires 3.5%; Córdoba 3.8%; And Santa Fe 5.1 percent ”.
Instead, “lThe jurisdictions with the highest intensity of employment in the public administration per inhabitant are Santa Cruz with 14.1%; Catamarca 12.3%; La Rioja 12.1%; Jujuy 10.9%; with 10.1% Río Negro and Neuquén; Tierra del Fuego 9.8% and Chubut with 8.2 percent ”.
Some aggregate data is known: there are some 4 million employees in the entire country that demand an expense equivalent to USD 4,000 million per month, between the Nation, provinces and municipalities, according to official data confirmed to Infobae by specialists who follow public accounts.
Forced adjustment for loss of income
What symbolic value and what real value does it have to reduce a part of those highest wages in the Nation, as it was raised in the debate in the public sphere this week? Money saving may not be relevant, but it is important to accompany a society that, at almost all levels, will lose income due to the combination of the local crisis and the global recession.
President Alberto Fernández He emphatically ruled it out yesterday in radio statements, stating that: “I have a government that does not have fortunes, that does not have foreign accounts, that does not have companies; they live off their salaries ”. In addition, he stated that “I call them at 7 in the morning and they attend to me. Those officials work all day, they are not stealing money. ”
Regarding the claim, he assured that it seemed “a very demagogic act”. “They don’t have a President who works a week and takes two on vacation. Furthermore, state salaries are not important today. I don’t want to get entangled in that discussion ”, he sentenced.
In the case of the provinces, there are other more significant ways for them to save money in these times of falling incomes. For example, according to experts, reducing the salary of those agents from non-essential sectors (that is, excluding health and safety) by a percentage of 20%, so as not to force the national State to assist them with more issuance or fall into sadness. return to quasi-currencies.
Between 2003 and 2015, there was a sharp increase in the number of public personnel at the three levels of the State, but since 2009 the growth of private employment was slowed.
The increase in the first group did not only respond to the delegation of the nation’s health, security and education services to the provinces, but to the lack of a strategy to diversify regional economies.
In the context of the current crisis, it is expected that public employment will increase, beyond the letter of the aforementioned law. “The law is still active, at least for now, although you have to understand the context. So far the provinces have not asked for it to be modified, although it may happen. In fact, the governors are pushing the quasi-currencies, which would be a violation of the law, “said Giussi.
Regarding the reduction of salaries of political leaders, he considered that “it is positive that they make an effort, although the savings are not very significant.”
Nuria Susmel, an analyst at the Latin American Economic Research Foundation (FIEL) said: “Political spending is about $ 50 million, it is very little money.”
The specialist considered that beyond the nominal levels, it would be good to be able to measure the productivity of the public sector, although she recognized that it is very difficult. “The previous government did some things in this regard, but not too much,” he said.
Meanwhile, the economist Marina Dal Poggetto, observed that the dilemma for the provinces is that “Either they lower wages or accept a different currency; if not, everything will be issued by the Central Bank ”, with the consequent risk on prices.
For his part, the UBA specialist Javier Lindemboim He stated: “the remuneration of the national public administration is far from being privileged, unlike what happens in some provinces where there are early retirements.”
“In Argentina, after 2002, it is observed that both the endowment and the share of spending on these items rose in proportions that are not consistent with the deterioration of public education at the national and provincial levels that has been recorded since then.. That is, there is a lot of inefficiency in spending. The income of the educational sector has stopped being good and, at the same time, they have refused to discuss other issues ”, he explained.
More generally, he clarified that “private employment rose strongly in 2003 and 2007 and then hardly grew. Instead, public employment did not stop growing. ”
On the demand of a part of society for the highest government officials to lower wages, he maintained that “the reaction that the people who come out with the saucepans is not against public employees, but because of the positions of political power ”.
And, although lowering wages in that segment represents less savings, “the absence of a gesture is a bad sign.”
For his part, the former director of Relations with the Provinces Felix Piacentini said to Infobae: “Until now the salary reduction measures in the provinces have been gestures that will not change the level of savings in their finances.”
However, it considered that “if there are people who are teleworking, for example, in the areas of Justice, administration and the legislative power of the provinces, they can be reduced by 20% to about 500 thousand people, without affecting their situation too much while they are at home “
“With this measure, the provinces would save some 9,000 million pesos a month, which could be used for more investment in health or for the sectors most affected by the crisis. That saving does make a difference without stopping the economy and is consistent with the idea of redistributing, “he said.
For the provincial finance specialist, “it is very difficult for quasi-currencies to return, because they should repeal article 21 of the fiscal responsibility law at the national level and in each legislature. And if they did not and used these de facto instruments, they could gain a short-term advantage, but in the long run they will be complicated by legal problems. ”
Instead, it considered that it is easier to repeat the experience of bonds for payment to suppliers, which are valid for a single fiscal period.
The economic crisis threatens to be long and, although sometimes the debate on these issues is displaced by day-to-day emergencies, specialists consider that it is better to make proactive decisions before reality adopts its own course.