Poverty is reduced in Venezuela for the first time in seven years | International

A group of people wait for public transport in Caracas (Venezuela).Rayner Peña (EFE)

Half of Venezuelans are poor, but for the first time in seven years poverty has been reduced in what is also the most unequal country in the world. The impact of the recovery that the oil country is experiencing, after having fallen into the depths of the economic pit, begins to show signs in the indicators of the Survey of Living Conditions of the Venezuelan, carried out by the Institute of Economic and Social Research of the Andrés Bello Catholic University, which since 2014 has been scrutinizing the statistics with its annual household survey due to the lack of official information. The good news of the decline in poverty to 2018 levels, when hyperinflation and the pandemic had not yet wreaked havoc on the bankrupt Venezuelan economy, has a context of inequities that explain the daily distortions in a country from which people leave for lack of employment and income, but in which luxury restaurants open every month.

“Mobility increased to the levels prior to the 2020 fuel crisis. This is good news because the income levels of the population are recovering and therefore there is greater enjoyment of goods and services,” explains sociologist Luis Pedro España, researcher at the Andrés Bello Catholic University. There is a significant jump in the recovery of income by sector: public workers who add up to more than 2.2 million people have an average income of 113 dollars a month, more than a year ago, and in the private sector it reaches 149 dollars a month.

Spain assured that these indicators are the result of the rebound in labor activity, having overcome the causes of the country’s immobility due to fuel shortages, the pandemic and also the elimination of some controls and the liberalization of the economy. “The National Executive did the easiest thing and what it should have done a long time ago,” she said.

But in the nuances are the characteristics of this recovery. Although incomes have increased, the social dynamic has not changed, which configures the structural causes of poverty and is related to access to education, services and housing, where this growth has not yet permeated. Poverty due to social causes increased from 31 to 42% from 2019 to 2022 and in the same period income poverty fell from 69 to 58%. “We are going to start in 2023 and the economy may continue to do well, but not families,” says the specialist. “For that to become social welfare, you need public policies and social programs that are very different from the ones we have now, that serve those Venezuelans who do not have the tools to access that economic growth, because we will reach a valley in which it will be possible to continue recovering people from income poverty.”

The collapse of the Chavista model based on controls of the economy and expropriations led Venezuela to its worst contemporary crisis. After a period of oil boom, squandered by corruption and mismanagement, came a brutal shortage of food and medicine on which a complex humanitarian emergency was mounted. Nicolás Maduro has had to reverse part of the dogmas of the Bolivarian revolution to sustain himself, with measures that have allowed this recovery that have also widened the inequality gap.

According to the data, those in the highest income percentile in Venezuela are 70 times richer than the poorest. Inequality also has a geographic correlation. Almost 40% of the richest households are in Caracas, where barely 16% of the country’s total households are concentrated. These data explain in some way the phenomenon of recovery bubbles, on which the phrase and meme “Venezuela was fixed” is anchored. In terms of gender there are also inequalities. In positions of higher managerial, professional or technical preparation, men can earn up to 200% more than women, although in jobs related to elementary and low-skilled tasks, Venezuelan women have a salary almost similar to men, according to this research.

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The Venezuelan population pyramid has been bitten by migration, the increase in mortality and the reduction in births, adds Anitza Freitas, geographer and researcher at Encovi, which has compromised the use of the demographic bonus, this temporary window in which countries can increase their productivity by taking advantage of their population composition. “The demographic structure has been changing abruptly, increasing the rates of aging and demographic burden. This generation is going to be similar to that of countries that were at war in which the young population was lost due to the conflict, but here it is because they left.” The Encovi registers a 6% return of Venezuelans who migrated and a reduction in remittances, partly as a result of family reunification, but Freites points out that a return flow of Venezuelans comparable to those seen leaving is unlikely.

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