Even with increase in minimum wage, Venezuelans still struggle

Latin America

A minimum wage hike seems like good news for any worker around the world, except. Not so, say many workers who depend on the minimum wage, in Venezuela. In early May, the Venezuelan government raised the minimum monthly wage by almost 300 percent, but that increase is still not enough to make ends meet for many Venezuelans.

For more than 30 years, Caty Colmenares worked as a primary school teacher in Caracas. When she became a pensioner two years ago, she looked forward to a peaceful retirement. But it’s a struggle living on a minimum wage pension, even with an additional food bonus it’s less than $4 per month.

“This is the only country where we are not happy when there is a wage increase. It’s the only country where, when they announce a raise, you feel depressed,” Colmenares said.

Caty says every time there’s a hike on salaries, the prices of products and services also go up. Teaching private lessons during the coronavirus pandemic has been a lifeline for her. She charges $1 for each lesson, which brings in more money each week than her pension.

“I am crying because, like me, many teachers loved their jobs and their careers. We studied a lot to have a good life, to help others, and at the end of our lives, to be like this, it is sad,” she said.

Venezuela is the country with lowest monthly minimum wage in Latin America. That’s pushed many professionals to abandon their jobs at public institutions and join the private sector or work in the informal economy.

The economy is also in its fourth year of hyperinflation, and its seventh year of recession, and Venezuelans’ purchasing power has plummeted.

The Venezuelan government says it’s making efforts to improve workers’ salaries. It says U.S. sanctions have deprived the country of much-needed revenue.

De facto dollarization has been taking place in Venezuela since 2019, widening the gap between those who earn money in dollars and those who don’t.

A national survey on living conditions showed nearly 96 percent of Venezuelans live below the poverty line.