By Marcela Valente
BUENOS AIRES, June 25 (Openly) - A law reserving 1% of Argentina's public sector jobs for transgender people will transform everyday life for the country's trans community, LGBT+ activists said on Friday after Congress gave final approval for the measure.
Senators in the South American country, which already has some of the world's most progressive trans rights legislation, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the law late on Thursday.
On top of the state jobs quota, the legislation offers tax incentives and soft loans for private businesses that hire trans people in Latin America's third-biggest economy.
"This law will change our lives. Having a formal job, or a salary receipt and a credit card are natural things for a heterosexual person, but not for us," said Claudia Vasquez Haro from the Argentine Federal Transgender Convocation (CFTTA).
"For us, having a formal job implies being able to study and to rent a place to live," she added.
The public sector job allocation for trans people was originally introduced as an emergency decree by the centre-left president last year, meaning it required congressional approval at a later stage to become law.
While the quota applies to state-run banks, public companies and hospitals as well as local and federal government departments, the economic incentives included in the new law aim to help trans people find work in all sectors.
Nearly a decade ago, Argentina became the first country in the world to let trans people change their legal gender without requiring a judge's permission or medical interventions.
But despite having such rights enshrined in law, trans Argentines often live in poverty and are discriminated against. A 2017 Buenos Aires government study found their life expectancy was just 32 years.
Neighbouring Uruguay introduced a 1% public sector staff quota for trans people in 2018, while other measures aimed at boosting the employment prospects of trans people have been proposed in Brazil and Bangladesh this year.
There is scant global data on the percentage of people who are transgender, but about 0.6% of Americans identify as trans, according to the Williams Institute, a think-tank at the UCLA School of Law.
Alba Rueda, Argentina's undersecretary for diversity and the first trans person to be appointed to a senior government post, welcomed the law's approval but said much more needed to be done.
"The state faces a huge challenge to end structural inequality," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Only 9% of trans people have a formal job while 70% are sex workers, according to the 2017 Buenos Aires survey.
Most had not finished school, but 92% of those surveyed said they would like to complete their education.
The new legislation states that having a minor criminal record or not having finished school cannot be obstacles to being hired or to getting a permanent job.
Instead, trans candidates will be asked to complete their studies while working. (Reporting by Marcela Valente; Editing by Rachel Savage and Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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