Structural Heterogeneity and Poor Microenterprises in Argentina
Marta Bekerman and Cecilia Rikap
Social form of labor

The social form of labor takes into account the social relations of production at play in an enterprise. It is constructed by means of two main indicators: a) who is or who are the owners of the microenterprise (unipersonal, familyrun6 or a de facto association7) and b) if the enterprise hires salaried labor on a permanent and/or temporary basis.

Most of the microenterprises interviewed are based on a single producer's labor and/or the family's labor. In fact, the majority are unipersonal –independent– or family businesses of 2 or more family members, which do not hire salaried workers or do so only on a temporary basis.

We ask ourselves what these enterpreneurs have in common and what differentiates them. They share a social form of labor, whether unipersonal or familybased, since they do not hire salaried workers except for on a temporary basis for some tasks and/or seasons of the year, such as holidays. They are also differentiated by the type of reproduction of capital: for some, the income is insufficient for simple reproduction of economic activity (infrasubsistence); others obtain their income at the level of simple reproduction of their enterprise (subsistence); and those who are in the best conditions have a greater level of capital reproduction, although the surplus is small. However, these differences are insufficient in order to provide for the presence of permanent salaried workers in the final subsegment, which concentrates the few businesses with permanent salaried workers.

In fact, although microenterprises with small surpluses exist, a long-term difficulty facing the entire informal sector is the meager reinvestment of profit –often because profit is practically non-existent– which curbs any possibilities for growth beyond simple reproduction (Bekerman, 2009: 526).

6 Both the unipersonal and the family enterprises could be categorized as family enterprises (understood as production units in which a producer and/or his or her family directly carries out the work). But in order to simplify this analysis, we have considered these two categories separately: unipersonal and family.

7 This is the case when two or more people share capital to work directly together and they enter into a partnership at will, without any type of legal status, to develop their economic activity.