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‘Ni-ni’ population does not fit stereotype

A group of pregnant women are seen during a UNICEF-sponsored event in the Lomas de Zamora municipality.
CIPPEC report contradicts common myths about youth in Buenos Aires province

Contrary to what is commonly believed, 75 percent of the population who does not work nor study — commonly referred to as the “ni-ni” in Spanish — in the province of Buenos Aires are women and about 40 percent of them are pregnant.

The data, presented yesterday by CIPPEC, runs contrary to the image of the “ni-ni” as young men who have ties to drug-trafficking and crime.

More than half a million youths in the province of Buenos Aires — roughly equivalent to 15 percent of the province’s youth — could be characterized as falling within the “ni-ni” category, CIPPEC said.

The “ni-ni” youth, however, are not the only ones facing a challenging environment in the province. Youth as a whole have an array of obstacles on the way to adulthood that the state can help overcome.

“The predominant point of view within public opinion about youth highlights their link to criminality and inactivity, synthesized in the concept of the ‘ni-ni,’” CIPPEC states, pointing out that “a more detailed analysis of the topic makes it clear that this vision tends to simplify ‘youth’ into a homogenous concept that is far from its true characterization.”

Youth in Buenos Aires province are best described by a “diversity of youth” who also encapsulate the numerous obstacles that must be overcome on the way to adulthood, CIPPEC said. For the purposes of the report, youths are defined as individuals between 15 and 29.

Of the general population that does not attend any kind of educational establishment nor is actively seeking employment, women are over-represented, with an estimated 425,000 of them being women and girls. As such they are 75 percent of the entire “ni-ni” population and CIPPEC also found that they tend to have domestic chores and live in households with other minors.

“41 percent of these women are mothers, and on average have children aged three to four years old. The children are not of schooling age and require care, which might explain the difficulty in having time to study or work,” explains Fabián Repetto, director of the Social Protection programme at CIPPEC.

Furthermore, it notes that the average age for the first pregnancy is rising in the region whereas in Argentina it is decreasing. Just over 12 percent of women and girls aged 15 to 19 in the province of Buenos Aires are mothers or are pregnant.

In addition, even if they are not mothers it is plausible that they would be given the task of helping to care for small children if they share a household.

Not only are teenage and adolescent pregnancies are a contributing factor to the obstacles faced by the provinces youths, but they must also cope with sub-standard housing.

Access to housing is significantly more restricted for the province’s youth, with 28 percent reportedly living in conditions of overcrowding that 36 percent rent their home, more than double the average for adults. Even when ownership of a home is attained, in 29 percent of cases the CIPPEC found that they are of poor quality

No work, bad work

The report is careful to differentiate between the “ni-ni” and the 13.5 percent of the youth in Buenos Aires province who are unemployed but also actively seeking work.

This large segment of the population is seeking to find work in an unfavorable labour market that is plagued with informality and low salaries, pointing to a systematic problem for young people seeking to find their first job.

Although just under half of youth in Buenos Aires province are employed, 23 percent of employed youth work more than the legally allowed 48 hours per week, that a quarter of them receive a salary that is below the minimum wage and that over half of them are engaged in informal labour.

To drive the point home, CIPPEC also cites “significant and consistent” gaps between the employment rates for adults and youth in the province in the 2003-2012 period. Unemployment rates among youth are double of that of their adult counterparts and have been particularly negatively affected by downturns in economic activity.

Unemployment among youth is an average of 2.5 greater than that among adults on a global scale according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Long-term policy fixes

Beyond a trite “our children are our future” message, the CIPPEC also notes that “the province of Buenos Aires is home to 3.8 million youths — 10 percent of the country’s entire population and 40 percent of Argentine youth.”

To provide the best outcome for this group and the subset of “ni-ni” youth CIPPEC considers it fundamental “to revert the predominant conception that sees youth as a problem instead of a set of collectives with a high social, political, and economic potential.”

As such, it hights that “it is important to determine in what way that the interventions by state and provincial authorities contribute” to a more successful transition towards adulthood. Following that premise, a secondary report issued by the CIPPEC stresses that although there are up to 42 instances of state intervention at the national level to favour youth they require greater coordination.

On the legislative side, the NGO cites the lack of a single unifying law that stipulates the rights that all youth are entitled to, leading to a lack of clarity when it comes to implementation.

Herald staff

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