This is the second part of a two-part article looking at Venezuela’s migration. Part I looked at the historical socio-political reasons why so many people have left and presented some data surrounding the phenomena.
Will Venezuelan migrants return?
It’s time to take a detour from Venezuela’s migration and look at a bit of Argentina's history.
In 2004, during Nestor Kischner’s presidency, a repatriation plan called Raíces (Roots) was launched for approximately 8000 scientists and researchers who were working for foreign universities and institutes.
Authorities managed to encourage the return of approximately 1300 researchers who are now part of nationwide investigation projects funded by the state. The program rendered excellent results between 2004 and 2015 before it was brought to a halt during Mauricio Macri’s presidency. It was relaunched in 2019 under the Alberto Fernández administration, and those who choose to return to their country are gradually being assigned to scientific and research posts in institutions by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
This example begs the question: does Venezuela need a comprehensive repatriation plan and what would it look like?
In this regard oil mechanic Rafael Colina told us that:
Skilled labor is needed in Venezuela. Thank goodness we are used to learning how to do a vast array of things. I am a mechanic by profession. Now I am also a welder, a blacksmith and a tuber. In the company [oil corporation PDVSA] you learn everything. That's the good thing about us. A Venezuelan who migrates elsewhere already has a rich notion of work, it is just a pity that this is not taken advantage of here at home! People who know how to do an array of things should apply these skills here for companies back home because they are needed.
For his part, PDVSA metal engineer Ángel Coronado also told us that:
When the INCES [National Institute for Socialist Education and Training] (1) and technical colleges were first created, it was to train young workers. I am a graduate of the Luis Caballero Mejías Technical College which is run in a similar vein to the INCES. However, one thing we are seeing is that Venezuela has lost a lot of potential. The migration of our young professionals has left us short, especially when we talk about around 5 million people [who have left the country].
'Return to the Homeland' Repatriation Plan
With this in mind, President Nicolás Maduro created a repatriation plan called Vuelta a la Patria (Return to the Homeland), but it has not yielded the expected results.
For now, only people’s return to the country is broadcast. Afterwards, no figures or data on employment or trade of those who return is offered, or if they have left the country again because a convincing or comprehensive plan for their reintegration into working life has not been implemented.
A year or so after the plan’s creation, Director of Consular Relations Eulalia Tabares stated the following:
As a new challenge, we have to strengthen social reintegration policies in order to guarantee a productive return in the labor market, educational and financial fields.
She also stressed that human mobility is a right, but that it must be carried out in a safe, orderly and legal manner.
Venezuela had a potentially working population (between 15 and 64 years) of around 64.5% of its total in 2018, compared to an estimate of 55.3% in 1950 according to data offered by a 2000 report issued by [former Minister for Planning and Development] Haiman El Troudi.
Demographically speaking, the report shows that there is a slight increase in the potentially working population. But, more importantly, El Troudi also estimated that there would be 23 million people aged 15 to 64 between 2010 and 2040. This range is classed as optimal to work and not dependent on social security. This phenomenon is called a demographic bonus.
What can be deduced from this data is that Venezuela has a demographic bonus that covers three decades where it will have a young active working population, for which the state does not have to, theoretically, invest huge sums of money to secure their social security.
This estimate is reinforced with more data: in 1950 there were 81 dependent citizens for every 100 working aged ones. Between 2010 and 2040 there will be 52 dependents according to El Troudi. So what does that mean?
1) The Venezuelan state must plan and execute investment in quality social security for children and the elderly as a matter of priority.
2) The Venezuelan state will not have to spend a huge amount on social security funding for the young population because it is actively incorporated into the labor market.
But loose ends cannot be left: to make better use of a country's demographic bonus we have to review several indicators. For example, employment opportunities, wages, social security at work, and education, to name but a few.
Reviewing one of the items, we can come to the conclusion here that, according to the country’s employment rate for 2019, 63.3% of the 28,435,900 population was employed (according to data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean).
So, the 2010-2040 decades, economically speaking, are a prime moment to place those 63.3% of Venezuelans who will be working at full throttle in all of the country’s productive areas and in optimal and dignified working conditions. It is also the right time to stimulate the professionalization and education of future human resources, as well as to invest in, safeguard, and improve the population’s quality of life.
Will the Venezuelan government be able to replicate the Argentinean experience and bring about a productive return of migrants -- as proposed by Tabares -- so that the demographic bonus has a positive impact on the Venezuelan economy?
First of all, for that to happen, it is necessary to pursue a serious review of today’s deplorable economic structure and to take decisive action against it. It is also necessary to review the economy’s main motors, such as oil rent, international remittances, tax collection, and family-run businesses.
Secondly, it is necessary to review and resume the nationalization of strategic areas initiated during Hugo Chávez’s second presidential term, which will give a boost to the import substitution plans.
Thirdly, the government must quickly and effectively plan and execute a technical training plan with incorporation into productive employment, as well as offering decent salaries for workers in strategic productive sectors.
It seems that in the twilight of the twenty-first century, a demographic gift is to be granted to the country. Venezuela’s population is young, and the human beings who inhabit the country must become the priority in its development. However, to really take advantage of this boom, better political, social, cultural, and economic conditions are needed.
(1) INCES is a government training program founded in 1959. During the Chávez governments, it was greatly expanded but has recently suffered from severe crisis-induced budget cuts. Its ethos focuses around hands-on practical crafts training through workplace insertion and scholarship schemes.
Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.