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My heart goes out to all of the individuals and families affected by the COVID 19. I hope that we can all work together to navigate as safely as possible through this extremely difficult time. There has never been a moment more in need of returning to community. Looking after ourselves, which in turn supports our families and our neighbours is as important as ever. Also don’t forget, in the words of one the great leaders of our time, “Be kind”.

What does isolation mean for those people who are living hand to mouth? There are many things that I take for granted! Having a salary is one of them. It means that I can stay at home for a month and not have to worry about how I am going to put food on the table. This quarantine thing has really opened my eyes and given me a totally new perspective on the vulnerability of so many people on this planet.

In Argentina there is a word that they use for odd jobs “changas”. There is a massive number of people here in Argentina who live off Changas. Whether it be fixing a leaking tap, transporting a fridge from A to B, or taking the copper out of wires from old computers to sell. At a national level, there are around 7.6 million informal jobs. That is over 17% of the population working without a salary.

So, let’s do a few calculations. I am going to make a few assumptions here but always underestimating the numbers. Based on the reality of how Argentina functions today, let’s say that 60% of those jobs are done by men who have families at home. That is 4.56 million men who let’s say have a partner and three children at home (this is a big underestimation because the general trend is the lower your income, the more children you have). So, that is 4.56 million families of 5, so 22.8 million people who are part of families dependent on under the table work or Changas. Let’s not forget the other 3.04 million workers who don’t have families. So, being very conservative, the total comes to 25.84 million people. That is over half of the population of Argentina dependent on informal work.

Obviously, right now, this problem is not isolated to Argentina. The fact of the matter is that in Latin America, Argentina is in a better position than most other countries. So, I’m going to apply similar math to numbers (from the World Economic Forum) in Latin America. The population is 626 million people. The average household is 5.4 in Latin America so I am going to be very conservative and say 6 members per household in instances of lower-income.

Here we go. 140 million informal jobs. 60% are families. 140x60%=84 That is 84 x 6(family members) =504 million people who are part of families.  504 + 56(who don’t have families) = 560 million people in Latin America alone depend on informal work.

Now, there aren’t the same quarantine measures in other Latin American countries like there are in Argentina. Some are stricter and others less so, but you can get a general idea of how fragile the lives are of over half a billion Latin Americans. Right now, in Argentina alone, over half of the population are locked in their houses and don’t have an income. The implications of this are huge.

For us as an organisation whose entire approach to community support is based on hands-on, face to face connection, it is a moment to rethink our strategy. How we can help is by distributing the essentials. We collaborate with Foundation Arché who luckily have a good network of people who support their work. They put out a call to the network to ask for monetary donations so that we could make up food bags with an assortment of necessities for families in need. With the existing food that we had stored in the kitchen and the necessities purchased with the money donated, this week, we were able to support around 20 families.  

It is confirmed that the quarantine here in Argentina has been extended for another 2 weeks. The knock-on effects of this shutdown are going to have disastrous effects on millions of families across the country. I don’t usually ask for donations like this but if anybody who reads this wants to donate whatever they can afford it is going to make a big difference in our ability to put food on the tables of families who really need it right now! $5, $10, or whatever you feel comfortable with. It all helps.

Here is our donation page: https://www.givenow.com.au/socialopportunitygroup

A big thank you to anybody who supports us or shares this post. Cheers.