Editor's Comment: Venezuela's National Assembly passed extraordinary new labor laws in support of workers on April 30, 2012. In a time when workers have had their rights stripped away and capitalist economies are collapsing throughout the United States and Europe, the Venezuelan government has managed to keep its economy thriving and has given the bounty to Venezuelan workers. We regard these new laws to be the most progressive labor legislation in the world today. We thank Axis of Logic Columnist, Arturo Rosales for his report and analysis.
– Les Blough, Editor
Arturo Rosales: This report does not include all the benefits to Venezuelan workers in the new labor law passed by the Venezuelan National Assembly but it provides the following key elements:
- Maternity Leave: As soon as woman is pregnant she cannot be forced out of her job or paid off. She gets 6 weeks prenatal leave with pay from her employere and 20 weeks maternity leave and is guaranteed her employment for two years after the birth of her child. The father receives 6 weeks paternity leave with pay and is also guaranteed his job for two years following the birth. If the child is born handicapped the mother cannot be fired and has a job for life.
- Social and Pension Payments: Pensioneers must be paid their due by their employer into a personal fund in a private or public bank or into a government program, depending on the choice of the worker. Double pensions have to be paid if a worker is dismissed unjustly. If a company goes bankrupt – either legally or illegally – the workers’ rights have to be paid before any proceeds from the bankruptcy can be paid to any other claims made by corporations or beneficiaries of the business. If the owners who claim bankruptcy do not have any money to pay the workers – their assets and properties will be seized on behalf of the worker.
- The Minimum Wage: On April 30, 2012, the minimum wage in Venezuela was raised by 32.25% to just under US$700/month including food tickets. It is currently the highest minimum wage in Latin America. Unemployment is around 7.9% at present.
- The Work Week: Working hours for Venezuelans has been reduced from 44 hours to 40 hours and it is now mandatory for employees to have 2 full days of rest and recreation per week.
- Out-Sourcing of Jobs: All out-sourcing of jobs has been banned in state industries. As a result, employees and contracted workers must be taken onto or kept on new payrolls to protect their interests and benefits.
Note all demonstrations and riots in France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Hungary against loss of wages, cuts in benefits, high unemployment. At the beginning of this year in France, unemployment hit A 12-Year High and showed no signs of slowing down with 2.85 million people out of work. November, 2011 was the seventh consecutive monthly increase in unemployment in France and unemployment among their youth is now around 20%. As of March, 2012 Spain's unemployment is 24.4% and Portugal's unemployment rate among youth rose from 27 to 30% in 2011 with Portugal’s conservative Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho telling the unemployed to walk – you got it right – to emigrate! – to leave their country family and culture and "move to Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil or Angola" to find work. And those are conservative perspectives un unemployment in Europe. In his article, "This Is Europe's Scariest Chart" Tyler Durden wrote on January 30, 2012:
"Some may be surprised to learn that while Portugal, and Greece, are quite bad, at 30.7% and 46.6% respectively, it is Spain where the youth unemployment pain is most acute: at 51.4%, more than half of the youth eligible for work does not have a job!"
Compare all this with Venezuela. In March, 2012 the active unemployed population in Venezuela decreased to 7.9 percent in March, which represents a variation of 1.3 percent and is 0.7 percent lower compared to March of last year. When Venezuela's unemployment rate today is compared with its unemployed in 1999, at which time 14.6 percent lacked jobs, its unemployment rate has fallen by 6.7 percentage points. This information comes from the Monthly Labor Report of the National Institute of Statistics. The lowered unemployment rate for March, 2012 is due in part to the boost to the economy provided by the Great Mission Knowledge and Work, a social program aimed at helping match individuals with employment opportunities and helping young people obtain their first job. The biggest change in recent years came in 2003, when the unemployment rate soared to 19.8 percent. That was due to the US-backed opposition's sabotage of the oil industry in December 2002 and January 2003.
The Venezuelan economy has brought new working-aged youth into the job market between 1999 and 2012 and also 370,000 of the formerly unemployed. As a result, 3.34 million people have been added to the labor market during that period. Elías Eljuri, the president of the National Institute of Statistics, explained that
"the evolution of employment patterns continues in Venezuela, with an emphasis on boosting the most stable and productive sectors … In 1999, formal employment was possessed by 49.5 percent of the working population, while as of March 2012, that figure rose to 58.7 percent, an increase of 9.2 percentage points."
Regarding the informal sector, 50.2 percent participated in this area in 1999, while last month, that number was 41.3 percent. The "informal sector" consists of those Venezuelans who are actually working but not in jobs considered within this statististical analysis.
2012 is the year for national elections in Venezuela. Some surveys give Chavez a 77% approval rating and a 64% vote intention despite 85% of the media being against Chavez and the Revolution. Go figure.
Arturo Rosales is a seasoned journalist who has worked in a number of Latin American countries. Since 1999 he has been writing on a voluntary basis to disseminate the truth about environmental and energy issues which are often obfuscated in the corporate media. With the advent of the Bolivarian revolution he turned his hand to more politically angled writing, especially when analyzing the effects and strategy of the Global Corporate Empire on the third world and Latin America in particular. Currently, Arturo is a staff writer for Axis of Logic.