Marco Lavagna: "It is impossible to assume that the problem of inflation is solved immediately"

Journalist: Due to the pandemic, the Census could not be carried out in 2020. What does a delay in obtaining statistical data imply?

Marco Lavagna: The fact of not having it updated since 2020 does not show a very direct impact. The difference is that in a way you work with frames of reference or the updated photo, whereas otherwise you’re working with an image of 2010, the one you’re going to be projecting. The further you get from the exact photo, the estimation errors are larger.

In that case you are working with suboptimal information. Obviously, having a new sampling frame, which comes out of the 2022 Census, allows you to be much more efficient when you have to prepare a new statistic.

I will give you an example: with the sampling frame that emerges from the Census, we may have a lower error rate in terms of “non-responses”. Because today we can go to a home that no longer exists and we still have it in our framework. So what we must do is instead of putting a house, we put that there are two. Keeping the data up to date avoids these statistical impact problems.

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Q.: What are the methodological differences between the “de facto” and “de jure” censuses? How is it reflected in the field work and in the preparation of the records?

ML: You get a characterization of where people actually live. When you did where you spent the night before, you could have someone who is not living at home or who did not move for that Census day. Likewise, the differences are not abysmal. Yes, it is very important to make this change and relieve people where they actually demand services, with their particular characteristics in terms of housing. This is the great advantage: it allows you to work with more precise data on where people spend the most time.

Q.: What happens if a person does not complete the census? Is it considered an offense that results in a sanction or fine?

ML: Censuses, like elections, They are a right and an obligation at the same time.. In this case, you are exercising your right to be “accounted for” and recognized and your civic obligation. The idea is not to go out and fine those who did not complete the 2022 Census.

What we do is make people aware of the importance of censuses, which have a very high degree of acceptance. There is an awareness of the importance of the case. Anyway, Our objective as the Statistics Institute responsible for the Census operation is to explain what it is for, what we use it for, how we protect the data and how we achieve that trust so that people participate.

Q.: What are the changes that set a precedent and will continue in the next censuses?

ML: This is a “transitional” census. Although we could incorporate more technological tools, we sought a very fine balance between “modernizing” and maintaining technical rigor. There were very big jumps like going from a de facto census to a de jure one. This must be done with certain precautions. For this reason, although the INDEC carries out the digital census, the census taker will then go through the dwellings to request the code that certifies that the questionnaire was completed in

Surely in the 2030 Census we will have greater digitization. For us, this is a very important leap and, at the same time, maintaining the rigor of previous censuses.

Looking ahead to the next censuses, there will surely be several advances as they set a precedent: the methodological issue of the right census, virtuality and digitization, the new questions in the questionnaire on gender identity and indigenous peoples, the use of artificial intelligence for data processing, among other things. Surely if the digital tool is used more, the number of questions can be increased since the format speeds up the process of completing the Census.

Inflation and economic reactivation in a pandemic

Q.: You took over in 2019 at the head of INDEC. What is your management balance, with a pandemic in the middle that broke all the schemes?

ML: Today no one questions how INDEC is working and its technical seriousness. This has to do with the effort and decision to maintain the technical team that had been doing this work.

It has to be a strong and robust team, maintaining the ways of making statistics over time. This implies modernization, as is the case with the 2022 Census, and continuity of work. In this sense, a few months ago we published the “Work Plan 2026”, following the objective of the statistical offices with a medium and long-term perspective. They must show where they are going and be capable of modernizing the line of work over time, regardless of who occupies or directs INDEC or the directors of each area. I think that planning is very important and so far we have achieved it.

At the beginning of the pandemic, with the complications that this implied, it was thought of temporarily discontinuing some statistics due to the difficulty generated by publishing them. Fortunately we did not have to discontinue them, but we also incorporated new ones such as the “Covid-19 impact study”something that was created within the framework of the new remote work modalities.

Another example is the “National Survey of Time Use”, a work published last Thursday. It is very important since it has to do with gender gaps and at the same time it is related to people’s quality of life, how is the combination of times between our working life, formal tasks and day-to-day leisure.

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Q.: According to the “numbers” that you reveal month by month, how was the evolution of the Argentine economy between 2019 and 2022 with the effect of the pandemic?

ML: It was very clearly seen where it was impacting, with sectors in the midst of the pandemic that, although they felt the blow, did not have an abrupt fall. For example the item food had almost no impact, in relative terms, if I compare it with the item hotels and tourismwhere there were very marked negative effects.

The impact on the labor market occurred much more in the informal sectors than in the formal sectorwhere there was more containment with measures to sustain and maintain the jobboth from companies and public policies.

Today what is seen is that all sectors have recovered from the effects of the pandemic, with different speeds, some are even above the levels of 2019. There levels were clearly recovered after the pandemic crisis. However, there are sectors that are just recovering and matching the numbers at the end of 2019.

The social impact has been very great in the midst of the pandemic. Despite having recovered a good part of employment, there are sectors that suffer from the effects of this fall in 2020 in terms of income, which is why we see that there are different realities depending on the sector.

Q.: What is the most worrying thing about inflation?

ML: It is one of the most worrying variables. It has a great social impact and hits more in the most vulnerable sectors. In that sense what worries is the number of yearsit is a problem that has been going on for many years, which makes it more difficult to start changing.

It is impossible to assume that the problem of inflation is solved immediately. There must be a job to gradually lower her, to be able to really say that she is controlled. Let’s hope she makes it.

Q.: Weeks ago INDEC published that poverty reached 37.3% in the second half of 2021. What is the analysis of this data?

ML: In the pandemic, the impact was greater in poverty than in indigence, where there were containment policies (both from the national government and from the provinces) and more people were prevented from falling into indigence. Obviously there was an impact, although less than poverty.

What was seen was recovery of the level of employment and activitygenerating that the mass of wages of the economy improves. This is part of the reason today is seeing an improvement over 2020, related to job and income recovery. Even in 2021 there was a recovery of income over inflation, which was reflected in the effects of improving the social level. Clearly it is still one of the central problems to focus on along with inflation.

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