Buenos Aires — Annual inflation expected to close 2022 above 100%, the loss of purchasing power and the lack of economic stability are some of the arguments put forward by Argentines who decided to leave the country in search of new opportunities in Europe, despite the challenges that this implies.
Currently, the exodus of Argentines - which began to be felt from 2018, but for which there are no official statistics - to other parts of the world has become a source of controversy in the country’s political arena, with former president Mauricio Macri having recently waded into the debate.
Having worked nine years in the legal sector, I found myself earning less and less.Florencia Malcom, 30, lawyer
“It is soul-destroying to see the daily exodus of young Argentines. They leave because they are frustrated at not being able to develop their lives here, while in other countries jobs, studies, housing, credit and a future await them,” the former president, who served from 2015 to 2019, said in a tweet.
However, Macri’s message was immediately condemned by the government of President Alberto Fernández, with the director of the country’s immigration agency, Florencia Carignano, responding with her own message.
I realized that what my parents achieved, working as teachers, was not going to happen for me.”Marina Pandolfi, 31, journalist
Carignano said that, between 2016 and 2019, during Macri’s administration, an average 50 Argentines left the country per day, while between 2020 and 2021, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the average was 18.
She also clarified that Argentines leaving the country do not explain their reasons for doing so.
But the debate didn’t remain within Argentina’s borders. “It is no coincidence that more and more Argentines are moving to Madrid, to leave peacefully, without seeing how everything they have achieved is trampled by the subsidy machine”, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Madrid region, posted in an online forum, and who also received a response from the government of Alberto Fernández.
“Lady mayor, do you know how many Spanish immigrants there are in my homeland, Argentina? Do you know how many came to escape the political violence and hunger of their country, finding peace, bread and work here? Peronism and my homeland embraced them. Be grateful”, Argentine senator Juliana di Tullio tweeted in response to Díaz Ayuso.
According to Spain’s national statistics agency, 32,933 Argentines arrived in that country in 2021, the highest number since at least 2008.
The Argentine wave in Europe
Florencia Malcolm, 30, is from the northern area of Buenos Aires, and chose to “put her life savings on the line” to move. She now lives in southern Italy, and is in the process of applying for citizenship. Her plan is to go to Spain, where his partner is studying for an MBA.
“I emigrated from Argentina a month ago, although I had already made the decision more than a year ago and, to get there, I also spent several years until I plucked up the courage. I left for several reasons, among them, the situation of my country. I feel that there is no way out and it is very difficult to grow,” said the labor lawyer, who also has a master’s degree in strategic HR management and a diploma in labor relations.
“On a personal level, although I was improving my labor position within the field I studied, with more than nine years working in the field of law, I was earning less and less. If I started to make the conversion into dollars, and each time my money was only enough to cover fewer and fewer things, making it impossible or really very difficult to buy a car, travel abroad and, not to mention buy a property, all things whose market values are in a currency we can’t afford,” she said.
Malcolm also pointed to another reason other than the economy: “Insecurity motivated me to emigrate”.
“Mainly, what I am looking for here is to obtain economic stability and progress in the medium term, without romanticizing Europe. That is, without believing that everything is rosy. I know that things are not easy on this side of the pond either, but, in general, there are usually more opportunities, if you are willing to look for them and work,” she said.
“On the other hand, I have always liked to travel, and I really want to see the world. I like the idea that when I have a stable job I can go on trips to different places at a low cost, places that would be unthinkable if I were not here,” she added.
For her part, Marina Pandolfi, 31, studied social communication at the National University of Lomas de Zamora and left Argentina in July 2021 because of a job offer. “They opened an office in the south of Spain, in Málaga, and I thought it was a good opportunity to take advantage of it”, she told Bloomberg Línea.
When it came to pointing out the reasons, she pointed in particular to “the little possibility of long-term development in Argentina”. “I realized that what my parents achieved, working as teachers, was not going to happen for me. They were able to buy a house in 1991 and, prior to that, they had had access to an apartment,” she recalled.
“For me, the only way to have my own house was to inherit it,” she said, adding that part of her family went to live in the United States, so she estimated that it would not be possible to visit often because of the expenses involved in living alone in the city of Buenos Aires.
“There are things you are always going to miss, but it is also nice to collect your salary and not run to change it to another currency, the possibility of being offered loans or mortgages at very low interest rates, being able to save and go to the supermarket and things cost the same. It was very sad to admit that the things that happened for my parents were not going to be repeated, at least not for me and my brother,” Pandolfi said.
Camila Masalías, 26, studied psychology and left Argentina because it was a goal she wanted to achieve.
“My dad always insisted I finish university first and then leave with a degree. I graduated, I bought my ticket and ended up going to Germany,” she told Bloomberg Línea.
“My sister lives here, and I think that was a big factor in my decision. Another factor that influenced me to come to Germany and not go to Spain was that there is an economic and labor crisis there, it is not very easy to get a job. There are few offers. The economic stability in Germany is something where the chances are high. The path is more possible than impossible,” she said.
Like Malcolm, in addition to stressing the importance of economic stability, Masalías also pointed to insecurity: “I didn’t feel comfortable living in a place where I had to have 8,000 eyes, plus the fact that I am a woman, which makes me feel it even more,” she said.
The challenges of living abroad
“It’s hard being an ocean away,” Pandolfi admitted. “From Argentina you miss many things, such as affection. The first feeling I had getting on the plane, crying, and getting off with my eyes extremely swollen. My life was in two suitcases. I arrived in Madrid and it was strange because I knew I was not on vacation,” she said.
However, she added: “In Málaga there are many Argentines. In fact, in the supermarket you can find mate and dulce de leche”.
For her part, Malcolm agrees that the arrival of Argentines is increasing and, therefore, there are certain delays in the paperwork: “I am already looking into the issue of papers for legal residency in Spain, and there are also more and more Argentines there. There are more and more delays in the procedures to be carried out”.
Gonzalo, who preferred not to give his last name, is a 26-year-old and now lives in Bilbao, Spain. He is a public accountant and is studying business administration. “I left Argentina because I had a job opportunity, although I already had the idea of finishing school and leaving,” he said.
“Things in my country did not allow me to plan for the future. I was working in Argentina and had a good salary, but I knew that moving forward [with my career] was almost impossible,” he said.
“Living in Spain does not present difficulties at the language level, and coming with a job was one less difficulty, but I know that it is difficult because of the experience of my friends. One started working as a waiter, another found a position in a company because he had worked in a multinational, but if you don’t have that chance, the easiest jobs to get are those of receptionist, waiter or assistant”.
Problems renting in Europe
Pandolfi said that, “what weighs the most, first of all, is leaving. I think it’s not for everyone. You have a hard time. She also mentioned the obstacles to finding a place to rent: “I’ve been looking for an apartment since August and I haven’t found anything”.
“The cost of living here is still cheap, but the rents are rising. In addition, they can ask for six months’ rent in advance,” she warned.
Meanwhile, Malcolm explained: “It’s hard to rent when you still don’t have a stable job, and the issue is that you need the rental contract to be able to do apply for residency and then be able to work legally”.
“The same thing happens here, in Italy, to obtain citizenship. It is necessary to come with patience, there are many communes collapsed by the amount of Argentines. You have to know how to choose where to go and investigate well beforehand. There are many scams. It is usually difficult to obtain a suitable rent, and there are many details to take into account, and you have to come prepared,” Malcolm said.
In Munich, rent is also a problem, according to Masalías.
“It’s chaos. I went through a lot of stress looking for my second apartment. When I arrived, we were in the pandemic, so kids from universities didn’t have to attend face-to-face, so there weren’t as many places available and there’s a lot of demand and not enough supply, so it becomes a war.”
“Five people or families could apply for an apartment and the owner would obviously choose only one,” she said.
From Bilbao, Gonzalo agreed that there are difficulties in accessing housing.
“I rented a room to save expenses because renting an apartment is very expensive. The salary of a young person of this age is between 1,000 and 1,500 euros. That allows you to live well, but you don’t have much savings,” he calculated.
As for healthcare, Pandolfi said that “it works quite well”, while she clarified: “With your health card you are assigned a doctor and a nurse in the health center closest to your home”.
“Spain has been trying to privatize public health a bit. They closed several health centers and the pandemic has overloaded the system. In my case, I have a prepaid health insurance and it works quite well. In some cases, they are handled differently. For example, gynecological check-ups are every three years and not every year, after a certain age, unlike in Argentina,” she said.
From Germany, Masalías said that there is “public healthcare that is deficient”.
“Public health does not cover anything that is very complex. If something serious were to happen to me, I would have to go into debt for something that I could get in Argentina. In Germany, however, they are very cautious. That means that if you pay for dental insurance, you save a lot of money in case something happens,” he said.
Translated from the Spanish by Adam Critchley