Someone asked me the other day about the maids here and does everyone have one .... so I did a little digging and found out some interesting info regarding "mucamas" (aka house maids).
Last year, the place we rented came with a mucama. We were not impressed. The standard of cleanliness after she had left the apartment was such that we ended up cleaning again later. She did change the bedding and the towels etc, plus water the flowers, sweep the patio, and generally tidy .. but really clean .... not really.
We found out, after our time here last year, that the property managers hire the maids and then charge the owners the maids salaries, then pay the maids themselves. Our maid was getting something like 12-15 pesos an hour ($3-$4 dollars). Also seems the property manager was charging the owners 25 pesos and paying the maid the 12-15 as I said, at least that is what the owners told me after the fact. This year, we decided that we didn't want a mucama as neither of us are comfortable with some stranger wandering around our apartment .. especially when we don't know how trustworthy she is ... so we're doing without.
But many couples in this area are both working .. and they work long hours. Not abnormal to have people leave for work at 6:15 am, come home around 3pm, then go back out again until after 11pm (they finish work then go for dinner). Repeat "dias habiles" (every weekday). It is accepted that these folks will employ a mucama to care for their house as the owners don't have time to do it themselves.
So what does this entail .. having a mucama. Well .. you can do it two ways .. either "en blanco" or "en negro". Blanco being above board, everything included and declared (obra social, social security, paid vacation time, and sick time). Negro is simply the black market underground economy. Everyone knows it exists (including the govt) but no one does anything about it. Anyway, the rates for negro are higher than blanco and will vary, depending on hours of work and what you're comfortable with. This will reflect the insecurity of not having a permanent job on the maids part, as well as her foregoing all the other social services working "en blanco" provides.
As of this week, under "blanco", a mucama will get around 18-20 pesos an hour. The govt standard for a full time maid is 2000-2800 pesos a month (do the math). With the inflation rate being what it is, that will go up, probably to around 20 - 25 pesos an hour by next September. You also have the other expenses, as in the items mentioned in the previous paragraph. Interesting to note that last Nov 2011, the official pay rate was 15.79 pesos an hour.
Under "negro" the mucamas will get somewhere around 25 - 30 pesos an hour but they also want a lunch provided, as well as "viatico" (travel expenses). Viatico is important as most of the mucamas travel daily from the outlying barrios at the city's edge to work in the downtown area .. and that costs money, of which they earn very little.
Usually the maids are hired based on referrals ... so it pays them to do a good job and get a good recommendation from their employer (but not from we transient tourists .. we're never here long enough for it to matter much in their lives). A local told me that they would never hire a mucama that had worked for a gringo ... we pay them too much and spoil them for working for a local Argentine. Interesting concept I must say.
So endth the lesson !