Calculating Our Diaspora

Venezuelans are leaving the country in a rush. What is surprising, though, is how little data there is on Venezuelan emigration. Here’s an estimate of our new reality.

Like many caraqueños, I’ve had to say goodbye to friends and relatives many times. Truth is I am the only one among my neighborhood, high school and college friends still living in Caracas. Even my sister is gone!

Although this exodus has been going on for a while, we don’t have accurate figures on how many Venezuelans have left the country over the past few years.

As it happens with many other statistics, the Venezuelan government hasn’t published the annual migration rate for years. This index does not estimate the amount of Venezuelans residing abroad, but could show if we are gaining population (or losing it) due to migration tendencies. Our main official statistics office, INE, hasn’t included emigration as an issue to be measured in its periodical surveys, so we don’t even have indirect estimations.

More than a third of our population is planning to leave the country. And that percentage increases among young Venezuelans.

This lack of official statistics, of course, hasn’t stopped public interest in a tendency perceived to be growing.

The information void results in different numbers of migrating Venezuelans, with sources wildly varying among themselves. According to BloombergBusinessweek, “The flood of people fleeing Venezuela’s crisis has become one of the world’s great mass migrations, surpassing the flow of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.”

The International Organization for Migration’s Informe Migratorio Sudamericano 2017, which uses government statistics, reports 606,344 expatriates. Then again, this is the same report that places Venezuela as a country of net immigration as of 2015, which to say the least, sounds a little strange. Universidad Simón Bolívar professor Iván de la Vega estimates a figure of 2.5 million people.

A very direct estimation, however, can be made through the 16-J plebiscite and its overseas turnout. 724,067 Venezuelans voted that day from outside the nation, roughly 3,66% of CNE’s voters registry. If we assume the same proportion for the whole population, Venezuelan emigration could be around 1,149,579 émigrés.

We don’t have a precise figure on the amount of Venezuelans that moved abroad during the Bolivarian Revolution, but we know it’s huge, and increasing. Just consider how many Venezuelans are still living here, but thinking about leaving:

Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP):

More than a third of our population is planning to leave the country. And that percentage increases – a lot – among young Venezuelans.  This is an overwhelming reality we must face and study, because migration could be a loss, yes, but it could also be an opportunity.

Only time will tell if we’ll know how to sail those waters as a nation and what effect will the true legado del Comandante have on our culture.

Lissette González

Is a PhD sociologist and researcher at Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales and Sociology Professor at Escuela de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. Blogger and collaborator of SIC Semanal and