Results of the 2016 Encuesta Sobre Condiciones de Vida en Venezuela (ENCOVI — Survey on Living Conditions in Venezuela) came out recently. The survey gathers data on poverty, nutrition, education, employment, security and health and interviewed 6,413 households between August and October 2016. Researchers from the country’s leading universities have conducted this survey for three years now, ever since the government’s official household survey stopped being publicly available.

There are two broad ways of measuring poverty: income and unmet basic needs. Neither is “right” or “wrong”, each measure has its advantages and disadvantages. ENCOVI sets out to measure both.

Measuring poverty by income in a high inflation economy with controlled prices is tricky, so these numbers have to be interpreted carefully.

Amid a dire economic downturn, poverty measured by income was expected to rise steeply, and that it did, going from 48% in 2014 to 82% in 2016. Extreme poverty measured by income rose from 24% in 2014 to 52% in 2016.

Measuring poverty by income in a high inflation economy with controlled prices is tricky, so the numbers have to be interpreted carefully. What researchers do is set a poverty line — a level of income below which you are “poor” — and count the number of households above and below that line. But when prices go haywire and data about inflation goes missing, the problem of where exactly to set the line becomes very complicated. ENCOVI researchers understand these problems and did what they could to overcome them. They set the poverty and extreme poverty lines on the basis of official inflation in 2014-2015, on an undisclosed inflation estimate for 2016, and used controlled prices in both cases (rarely seen in the marketplace). Therefore, ENCOVI’s income-based poverty statistics may misrepresent actual poverty levels.  

Poverty as measured by unmet basic needs is much less responsive to short-run economic trends. It rose from 22% in 2014 to 34% in 2016. Respondents’ basic needs are “met” if they have access to a minimum number of basic services in terms of housing, education, public infrastructure, healthcare, etc. The share of the population that is poor as measured by income and unmet basic needs rose from 16% in 2014 to 31% in 2016. This group is referred to as chronically poor.

Alarmingly, 73% of Venezuelans reported involuntarily weight loss.

The survey’s nutrition data is shocking. 78% of the population Venezuela has breakfast, and the share of the population that has two or fewer meals (33%) tripled since 2015 (11%). Purchases of meat, chicken and fats (which are relatively expensive) dropped sharply and were compensated by increased consumption of vegetables and root vegetables (less expensive) in the average Venezuelan diet in 2016. Over 90% of the survey sample self-reports not having enough income to buy food. 81% never eats out, compared to 55% in 2014.

Alarmingly, 73% of Venezuelans reported involuntarily weight loss. Among the respondents that lost weight involuntarily, the average lost 8.7kg (19 pounds). If this paragraph didn’t knock the wind out of you the first time, read it again.

The ENCOVI’s health data is limited, but it still paints a grim picture. The share of Venezuelans with no health insurance plan rose from around 50% in 2014 to 64% in 2016, and the lack of coverage disproportionately affects the poor. Around 87% of the poorest 20% of Venezuelans are not covered by health insurance, while just 30% of the richest fifth of households lack coverage. The share of the population that reports suffering from hypertension rose from 2% in 2014 to 8% in 2016. Diabetes remained broadly flat at 3% of the population between 2014 and 2016.  

Just 38% of workers contribute to the Instituto Venezolano del Seguro Social (IVSS, our social security system), and just 36% contribute to any sort severance payment scheme (prestaciones sociales).

ENCOVI’s education statistics are worrying. Just seven in ten children aged 3-5 go to school, and non-attendance in that age bracket hits the poor disproportionately. Only half of children aged 3-5 from the poorest 20% of households go to school. Of children aged 3 to 17, 12% does not attend school. Of the 88% that does attend school, 65% sometimes misses class and 29% never misses class. The top reasons for missing school included water supply (30%), power outages (22%), strikes (15%), not enough food (10%), transport (9%), and disease (4%).

The ENCOVI’s employment data is likewise troubling. Around 38% of the working population is self-employed. The remaining workers are about evenly split between the private and public sector. Roughly 44% of workers do not have contracts, 9% have verbal contracts, and 8% have temporary employment. Only 39% of workers have fixed contracts. Just 38% of workers contribute to the Instituto Venezolano del Seguro Social (IVSS, our social security system), and just 36% contribute to any sort severance payment scheme (prestaciones sociales). It’s a precarious picture.

Generally speaking, Venezuelans became more dependent on government programs in 2016. Beneficiaries of the government’s misiones rose from 8% of the population in 2014 to 28% in 2016. The share of people who say they do not need assistance from misiones dropped from 51% in 2014 to 22% in 2016. This is self-reported survey data, not administrative data, so it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, just 14% of poor people say they are covered by misiones, while 91% of non-poor people are covered by a mision (own calculation). This suggests that the misiones aren’t helping folks that need them the most.

Finally, the ENCOVI’s security section indicates that crime and subjective perceptions of crime stayed constant or rose. For instance, 21% of respondents said they have been victims of crime in the last 12 months, versus 17% in 2014. In addition, 94% of respondents say crime got worse in the last year, versus 86% in 2014.

The ENCOVI survey notwithstanding, social researchers are still mostly in the dark.

The ENCOVI is important. In the absence of the official household survey, it’s the next best way of measuring what life is like for Venezuelans with some degree of statistical rigor. We hear distressing anecdotes about crime, hunger, see things on the street, at work, and on twitter. But with this data from thousands of households, the picture crystallizes a little: Venezuelans are barely hanging on.

The ENCOVI survey notwithstanding, social researchers are still mostly in the dark. There’s just very little data to work with. Venezuela’s crime statistics are badly lacking. We only have a vague sense of where crime occurs, why it occurs, how it occurs, and with what frequency. Health statistics are also scant. The Health Ministry’s epidemiological bulletin hasn’t been published in two years, and we don’t know how dengue, malaria, zika, difteria, chikungunya, and other diseases are spreading. We don’t really know what the 38% of self-employed of working Venezuelans get up to every day. Economic statistics, like inflation, GDP and even the fiscal accounts are similarly opaque.

If and when the opposition reaches power, it will have to formulate economic and social policy while mostly flying blind.

 

51 COMMENTS

  1. Siempre ha sido así. También en los gobiernos de la oposición, pero cuando ya no les conviene seguirlos apoyando, comienzan a sacarles fotos de miserias, que en todos los gobiernos las hay. En este gobierno también hay cosas buenas y malas. Me está pareciendo que tanto lo bueno como lo malo, favorece a todos los gobiernos, según el beneficio que puedan sacar de ellos.

    • “En este gobierno también hay cosas buenas…”

      Muchísimas.

      *sonido de grillos…*

      “Siempre ha sido así. También en los gobiernos de la oposición…”

      Típica excusa inútil (por no decir un adjetivo más apropiado pero que sería un insulto) para perdonarle el crimen al chavismo.

      18 años, con todo el poder y todo el dinero, y 85% del país pasando hambre.

  2. Siempre ha sido así. También en los gobiernos de la oposición, pero cuando ya no les conviene seguirlos apoyando, comienzan a sacarles fotos de miserias, que en todos los gobiernos las hay. En este gobierno también hay cosas buenas y malas. Me está pareciendo que tanto lo bueno como lo malo, favorece a todos los gobiernos, según el beneficio que puedan sacar de ellos.

      • Las casas para la gentes pobres son muy bonitas y equipadas. Comparables a aquella casitas de techos de sinc de la 4ta república,, son como quintas de la clase media baja. Y te apuesto que eso no cuesta tres lochas.Lo de la comida son tácticas añejas.

        • Cuantas son esas casitas en numeros–UN MILLON Y MEDIO??? Quienes las reciben, aparte de los allegados enchufados a militares/politicos/etc.? De que calidad son esas casas, y con que calidad de servicios (aguas blancas/negras/etc)? Cuanto verdaderamente costaron al Estado esas casas–3/4 veces su verdadero costo de construccion? Quienes construyeron esas casas–Chinos, Iranies, etc.–y, los constructores Venezolanos, que? Compara esas casas con los Bloques construidos por Perez Jimenez en el 23 De Enero, El Valle, Pro Patria, El Litoral, etc. si quiere ver viviendas dignas de verdad.

          • Qué ladilla, nos cayó un chavista que se las tira de “equilibrado apolítico”

            Esos son los trolls más ladillas del lote.

          • Cuantas son esas casitas en numeros–UN MILLON Y MEDIO???

            1.5 million housing units is the housing construction figure the government proclaims. That figure is not believable to me, based on a CC article from 2013: Gran Mision Mad Rush to Catch Up After Years of Broken Promises. One can extract the following comparison between the Fourth and Fifth Republic, from a link in the article- from Francisco Toro comment @ February 6, 2013 at 10:04 am.

            Housing Construction per year
            1979-1998 65,871
            1999-2012 53,481

            That would make 748,734 housing units constructed from 1999-2012. While Chavismo had accelerated the rate of housing construction by averaging ~100,000 units constructed from 1999-2012, I find it hard to believe that there were ~750,000 housing units constructed from 2013-2016, given that the price of oil collapsed in 2014.

  3. Lo siento Magalis, pero no es cierto. Venezuela nunca había registrado numeros tan catastróficos, por lo menos desde 1959.

  4. Frank, is this the same as Espana’s UCAB yearly study, or is his study part of this study? Also, using developed world/economy parameters, based on the ENCOVI/UCAB studies, what is your estimate of Venezuela’s real-world unemployment rate? Finally, of the 78% who say they have breakfast, what does the breakfast typically consist of–a single arepa, maybe only a “viuda”?

    • Hey! With the slides ENCOVI put out summarizing their results, you can’t tell exactly what the average Venezuelan had for breakfast. What you can say, though, is (1) what % of families buy different food groups (broken down by year and poverty type), and (2) the respondents’ subjective impressions of whether or not their diet is sufficient, balanced, varied, monotonous, deficient, etc. It doesn’t have information about specific meals, at least not in the slides they put out.

      Re unemployment: the survey says the overall statistic is 7%. But I wouldn’t read into that too much. In absence of other information, like the participation rate, it could be a little misleading. It also doesn’t give a breakdown by age, which is important.

      • Frank, I believe real developed world employment means steadiness (not “informal” Venezuelan employment matando tigres, when available), a social benefits safety net in terms of income/health care upon a certain age/number of years worked-contributed, etc., none of which is available for Venezuela’s as many as 50/+% informal workers (some past Govt./other estimates, I believe), and, in the case of adequate public health care, isn’t even available to long-term private/public employees upon retirement=a comparative first-/developed world unemployment rate, being generous, for Venezuela of at least 50% for comparative purposes, unless one is talking about Tropical Mierda comparisons….

    • That one sounds suspiciously like one of the worst noticiero digital trolls, always playing the passive-aggresive (aka mosquita muerta) while evading every single argument and proof against his statements.

  5. […] 民粹主義(populism)一詞可純粹解作反精英主義的政治運動,向不理大眾意見的政治體制反撲,不一定帶負面意義。然而,當民粹被野心家利用,當作政治鬥爭的權力籌碼,危險便會隨之而來,波及社會各階層。南美國家委內瑞拉落得早前飢民處處、民不聊生的悲慘下場,一定程度上也可歸因於民粹泛濫帶來的惡果。 […]

Leave a Reply