There is no better way to understand the hardship facing Argentina than by examining the pay that people receive for a day´s work. In the northwestern town of Salta, a provincial capital, the public school teachers have been on strike for seven weekss demanding an increase in pay. The government is sticking by its offer of 300 pesos a month. The teachers union has asked for an increase to 700 pesos as the minimum monthly wage. The protests have been massive, yet the government hasn´t swayed.

How little is 300 pesos a month? The exchange rate is roughly 2.90 pesos to the dollar. So, it´s shocking to think that teachers (on whom the future of any society depends) make no more than $100 US dollars a month. While Salta is a remote city of 500,000 at the base of the Andes, that wage is not sufficient for anyone, much less a family.

Within Buenos Aires the situation is not any better. Many people work twelve hour days just to earn $8 dollars. A recent radio program discussed the lack of quality of higher education in Argentina and attirbuted it partly to the low wages of college professors (along with the huge open enrollments that overwhelm the resources of any university). A professor at the University of Buenos Aires can expect to earn $900 pesos (around $300 a month).

Throughout the country workers are striking for higher wages while inflation continues to rise and threatens to grow out of control. For the first three months in 2005, inflation was 4%; annual inflation for the entire year is now expected to be in double digits, despite the government´s forecast that inflation in 2005 would be only 8%. The government now fears that increased wages will only fuel higher prices, which is likely so but how long can this situation continue? The current government is very popular and no clear (and likely to succeed) rivals are on the horizong, but this is a condition in which the populace will not tolerate forever.

And those teachers in Salta? After 7 weeks of striking, they have dropped their demands for an increase beyond $300 pesos. They must have reluctantly faced the choice that anything is better than nothing.