Inicio Last Moment "Great lockdown" triggers wave of unemployment in Venezuela

"Great lockdown" triggers wave of unemployment in Venezuela

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Maykol Gómez, 29, a security adviser to one of Venezuela's leading hardware stores, expected his dismissal at any time.

His intuition was right a couple of weeks ago, in full quarantine by the pandemic, when his supervisor confirmed that he would not continue to work at the company.

On May 2, a month and a half after Nicolas Maduro's disputed government decreased social isolation by COVID-19 in Venezuela, he stopped working.

"Partly I did expect it. Several classmates had gone out for the same cause a month earlier," he explains to the Voice of America from home.

Officially, his company managed all terminations not as redundancies, but as "contract terminations" in trial periods, he says.

In Venezuela, it is forbidden to formally fire any worker. Joblessness has been in force since April 2002, in the management of Hugo Chávez.

Nicolás Maduro, the disputed president, ratified this order until December 2020, as part of the mitigation measures of quarantine by the new coronavirus.

The situation, however, has lifted a wave of layoffs, revenue contraction, declining jobs and terminations of thousands of employees in Venezuela, according to trade unions such as the Zulia State Workers Federation, Fetrazulia.

Maykol Gomez
"Being out of work has made debts continue to appear," says Maykol Gómez, a security adviser fired weeks ago in Venezuela.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) considers Venezuela to be the third-worst-performing nation of the "Great Confinement" year. Your Gross Domestic Product is expected to contract by at least 15%. Global economic paralysis from the pandemic was united in Venezuela with an unprecedented crisis, including the world's highest inflation (9,585.5% in 2019).

"Being out of work has made debts continue to appear," says Maykol, father of a two-year-old boy.

Today, he no longer has the five million bolivars or $27.6 a month with which he paid his home rent.

"The situation is very difficult. I've been looking for a job, knocking on doors, but right now no one's hiring for economic measures and quarantine," he explained.

Hunger behind the wheel

Dozens of drivers arrive daily at the office of José Sarmiento, president of the Zulia state transport union, Venezuela's most populous, for help.

That space where there are traditionally trade union discussions is "a soundboard" of the hunger of his peers during the pandemic, he says.

Their representatives implore that they be given a kilo of cornmeal or rice for their children. They confess to him that they can no longer bear the need in their homes.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 public transport drivers have been banned from operating for two months on the orders of Governor Omar Prieto, Maduro's ally.

"It's very worrying and sad. What I see is sadness," Says Sarmiento.

Five-seater car drivers earned between two and three million bolivars per day ($11 to $16.5, according to the Central Bank of Venezuela exchange rate). Microbuses could earn up to four times that amount.

José Sarmiento, trade unionists of carriers, says that his office is "a soundboard" of the hunger of his representatives during the pandemic.

Others, fed up with hardship at home, violate the official ban and take to the streets to work with their vehicles. The trade unionist confirms the arrest of 28 of them. Today, Sarmiento explains, they must take to the streets, not behind a steering wheel, but with fruits, used clothes or bags of soap powder in their hands for resale.

"We are trying to survive and survive. What do you do if you have kids and they ask you for food and you don't have them? The carrier is desperate because we didn't get any money. We're not asking for anything, we're asking for work. We're not alms," he said.

Occupational virus

Venezuela's official unemployment figure rivals those of the country's employers' and trade unions, as well as IMF data.

Opponents accuse the disputed president of manipulating the employment occupancy rate, including informal employees and beneficiaries of social plans.

Maduro, in January, said the vacancy rate was six percent. The IMF forecast it at 35.5 percent in 2020, among the highest in the world.

IMF Director for the Western Hemisphere Alejandro Werner warned for days that business failure and rising unemployment during the economic reopening stage throughout the orb after the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic are anticipated.

In the case of Venezuela, an accent is expected in that indicator. Economist Jesús Casique warns of the pre-existence of a business collapse in the country.

In the manufacturing sector alone, there were 11,117 companies in 1998. Twenty-two years later, he specifies, there are only 2,849 companies left open.

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