Turning back time: Struggling Argentines forgo cash and barter goods

World Today

Argentina Barter ClubAn Argentine woman named Silvia sets up a table of homemade toys that she will trade for other goods. (CGTN America)

Struggling Argentinians are turning back the economic clock, saying “no” to cash and “yes” to bartering. With high inflation and unemployment, some see no other option.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports.

Alongside dozens of other women, 30-year-old Gisela laid out orders of pizzas and pastas she made at home. Rather than selling her food for money, Gisela will be swapping it for other goods at a barter club.

“I publish on the Facebook page of this club,” she explained. “I publish what I’m making and post the list of what I need at home. People make orders, I note down who wants what, what flavors they want, and come with their orders.”

With inflation expected to end the year at around 30 percent, and with unemployment rising, barter clubs are increasingly common. One club in Merlo, outside Buenos Aires, has more than 40,000 members on its Facebook page.

Members (mostly women) pay less than a dollar to participate, with the funds going towards organizational costs.

The value of products is set by the Facebook page. People agree to the trade, and then come to meet.

Barter clubs like these are not new in Argentina. They were common in the aftermath of the economic crisis in the early 2000s, and are now returning as a way to provide basic goods.

In many working class neighborhoods, families cope with a struggling economy, being forced to trade for toys, clothes, and food.

Silvia is one of twenty administrations running a club that started two years ago. She knits toys, and with that, is able to help out at home.

Silvia remembers the 2001 economic crisis when barter clubs like this sprung up around the country. She’s worried people today are again in need of a support network.

“It is like a plan B,” according to Silvia. “It is like having an extra income to help at home. Husband goes to work and is paid, [but this way] we fill the cupboards.”

For many families, bartering is a secondary source of income. But the worry is that bartering could become the only way people can make ends meet.