Several economists and social analysts from Venezuela and Latin America are concluding what the title of this note suggests. The unbelievable percentage of 94.5% of the labor force in that country is earning less than one US dollar per day, so without question and according to the United Nations, almost the whole population is below the poverty line (ENCOVI 2021). In conclusion, those same analysts conclude that this is a new way of modern slavery or semi-slavery.

The majority of workers including technicians and professionals in most areas earn less than 20 USD monthly, but the basic needs of a family of four persons require 385 USD just to purchase foods, without including services, and education or extra needs that make up for a decent standard life. So, people in my country are working for nothing. Forget about leisure time.

Venezuelans have become almost slaves since 2016 when hyperinflation basically eliminated the minimum wage. Those in public services such as small schools, ministries and universities, earn about 3 USD a month. Few high-rank professionals might reach 25 USD and the most experienced tenured professors may earn up to 40 USD. However, in order to pay for transportation in the cities, you need at least 12 USD. Thus, common workers need to earn three months of their regular payment to cancel the bus service. One of the public and private solutions for the fair early complaints on such irregular situation was: to allow the workers to resign freely or recommend them not to go to their workplace until some special needs are needed, or find an extra job.

This semi-slavery is one of the reasons why about six million Venezuelans have migrated in the last five years, a solution for that 25% of the population. The rest 65% is living thanks to the money generated by those migrants who send money to their families, from a humble 30 USD until about 400 USD in the best cases.

Working for almost nothing is against the national constitution which forbids slavery or earning less than the basic living standards (article 91) which in Venezuela should be some 800 USD per month. The insensitivity of most governmental bosses always results in this kind of answer: “We cannot do anything about wages, it must be done only by presidential decreet. You are free to go, find another job or do not come to your workplace, stay at home, unless we need you”.

In the last 4 years, the Venezuelan private sector started paying better salaries between 60 and 1200 USD, plus bonuses when possible. However, the public sector did just very tiny increases in the national currency which have always been less than 30 USD a month.

The bosses from public agencies always demand more from the responsible or key workers. These skilled workers used to do their best when they had a better income. Vital governmental services are declining as the offices are becoming empty of personal; no one wants to work in such conditions. Another way though to help employees has been the provision of bags containing certain food every month, however, the majority of these bags contains low-quality products, or are actually delivered every few months. In some small towns, these bags are unknown.

Meanwhile, since not all the population is able or willing to migrate or find a different source of income, Venezuelans are suffering from hunger. People do two or even one meal a day, with low or no proteins; minor crimes as stealing food are increasing. No leisure time throughout the years, except perhaps during Christmas, but with huge sacrifices. You can see people checking garbage dumpsters for food to eat, daily. Some even fight for those food remnants, if they find some. It is demolishing hearts and minds for the more fortunate 5% of the population, to see this.

There is still some hope thanks to several people and organizations who are helping by opening restaurants for the less fortunate, free basic education, free health attention, giving money to the poor, and the best, hiring more people, and paying better salaries.

Moreover, many Venezuelans are also suffering semi-slavery even abroad. Reports of migrants being abused in Ecuador, Peru, and in the United States, abound; most illegal Venezuelan immigrants in those countries are receiving less than the minimum wage, adding to that some extra mistreatments.