Venezuelans are 36% more likely to be financially impacted by COVID-19 than Colombians
The Center for Global Development and Refugees International launched a report today finding that COVID-19’s economic effects hit Venezuelan refugees in Colombia particularly hard. Venezuelans living in Colombia are more likely than locals to work in impacted sectors, and very few work in sectors relatively immune to COVID-19’s economic shocks, researchers found.
The paper’s authors, Jimmy Graham and Martha Guerrero Ble, compared the Colombian government’s nationally representative labor market data from August to October 2019 and the International Labor Organization’s analysis of global sectors most highly impacted by COVID-19 in order to calculate how Venezuelan refugees in Colombia are being financially affected by the pandemic.
COVID-19’s wide impact has hurt the labor prospects of both Colombians and Venezuelans in Colombia alike, but the impact is harder felt among Venezuelans, and Venezuelan women in particular. Among other findings, the authors discovered that:
- 64 percent of employed Venezuelans work in highly impacted sectors, compared to 47 percent of employed Colombians.
- Only 3 percent of employed Venezuelans work in the least impacted sectors, compared to 13 percent of employed Colombians.
- Venezuelan women are even more adversely affected, with 78 percent of employed Venezuelan women working in highly impacted sectors, compared with 57 percent of employed Venezuelan men and 59 percent of employed Colombian women.
- 46 percent of employed Venezuelans work in the informal economy, compared to 35 percent of employed Colombians.
“These findings underscore the fact that Venezuelans face numerous barriers to accessing the full Colombian labor market – something which has had adverse consequences during COVID-19,” said Helen Dempster, the Assistant Director and Senior Associate for Policy Outreach for Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy at the Center for Global Development. “Removing these barriers, as we show in a new case study released today, would contribute nearly $1 billion to the Colombian economy every year.”
“COVID-19 is creating a widespread loss of livelihoods for Venezuelans and Colombians alike,” said Cindy Huang, Vice President for Strategic Outreach at Refugees International and Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Global Development. “Greater economic inclusion for Venezuelans can help prevent loss of income, evictions, food insecurity, and poverty, and can support Colombia’s economic recovery long-term.”
The Impact of COVID-19 on Venezuelans in Colombia
As mentioned above, Venezuelans in Colombia faced a wide range of barriers to economic inclusion even before the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, even after controlling for other predictors of labor market outcomes (specifically age, sex, education, and location), Venezuelans were earning 30 percent less than Colombians on average as of October 2019. They were also far more likely to be working in the informal sector. Venezuelan women faced especially large wage gaps. As a result, many Venezuelans, and Venezuelan women in particular, were struggling to meet their basic needs.
To understand the extent to which COVID-19 has exacerbated these difficulties, it is helpful to examine data on where Venezuelans work within the economy. According to the ILO, COVID-19 has negatively affected some sectors of the global economy—in terms of wages and employments rates—more than others (table 1). Thus, if an employee or business owner was in a highly impacted sector before the outbreak, they are more likely to have lost their job or business or experienced losses of income.