Venezuela Social Condition Facts

Social conditions

Living conditions in Venezuela have for a short time gone from normal prosperity for the region to direct misery for a majority of residents. Rarely has the situation deteriorated so quickly in a country that is not at war. Hunger is now widespread and people die from diseases that were previously easy to cure.

The economic and political collapse in Venezuela has caused more than one in ten residents to leave the country soon. Among those who remain, desperation is great.

In principle, healthcare has completely collapsed. Already in 2015, alarm signals came that only one third hospital bed was available and that the lack of materials and equipment was becoming more acute. Diseases such as malaria, cholera, dengue fever and other tropical diseases are now more common. Since then, the situation has steadily deteriorated.

Between 2012 and 2017, more than half of the country’s doctors left the country, according to a study by dozens of non-profit organizations. The number of nurses was three quarters.

The food deficiency is galloping and leads to malnutrition and pure starvation. In February 2020, the United Nations Food Program WFP reported that over 9 million people – about one in three Venezuelans – are not getting enough food. Four out of ten households state that they have electricity outages daily. Extensive looting and violent crime have followed in the footsteps of distress.

venezuela population

During the first period of social government in power, the trend was the opposite. The proportion of poor residents fell from around half of 1999 to a quarter 15 years later. The economic gaps were reduced, for example through Hugo Chávez’s social initiatives, missionaries.

The Misiones initiatives meant increased access to healthcare, cheaper food and a greater proportion of children and young people in school and university. More Venezuelans gained access to water and wastewater in their homes and support was provided to the elderly without pension. Child mortality fell and life expectancy increased. Venezuela got a push upwards on the United Nations Human Development Index. However, many of the social programs were ineffective and corruption was widespread. When it turned around, it was quick to execute (see Current Policy and Economic Overview).

Chávez came to power with promises of free healthcare to everyone. Access to healthcare also increased rapidly in the beginning, with the help of thousands of Cuban doctors. They worked in newly established hospitals in poor areas, and doctor visits and medicines were free. But later, health care funds fell as a share of GDP, while the economy as a whole began to shrink. At the end of 2018, approximately 90 percent of the medicines needed were missing.

According to the law, women and men are equal but Venezuela is a patriarchal society. In theory, women’s rights are respected, but are often violated in practice because of stereotypical, traditional values. Women’s trafficking is widespread, but few perpetrators are convicted.

Homosexuality is legal but there is no legal recognition of gay couples. Discrimination exists, but at least in Caracas there is an open gay world.

A large part of the population lives in urban slums. Violence, crime and drug abuse are serious problems. In Caracas and at the border with Colombia, the situation is particularly difficult. Illegal groups from the Colombia conflict also operate on the Venezuelan side, and part of the cocaine trade goes through Venezuela.

Social structure

The upper class – less than ten percent of the population – has traditionally held most of the economic and political power, but now this elite is more open and diverse than before. It does not consist solely of European descendants. As the vast majority are of mixed origin, there are no serious, open tensions due to skin color or ethnic background, although residents of African or Native American origin may be subject to condescending attitudes.

Early on, the oil wealth contributed to the development of a large middle class, and many of the poor peasants and farm workers who moved to the cities were able to make a decent living through work and union connections.

Family life

The family, with its mother as a pillar, is of central importance to most Venezuelans. The nuclear family is most common, but previously grandparents often lived in the same house. Whenever possible, the closest relatives of the nuclear family live in the same area. Those who have been forced to relocate to other locations have frequent letter or telephone contacts with their closest relatives.

The oldest generation or other relatives take care of the children when the mother works outside the home, but in the upper middle class there is also paid home help. During the 1990s, larger companies began arranging childcare for employed women.

The children in most families, especially daughters, are rarely left alone and they usually spend the evenings at home, or even have a family dinner at a restaurant. Young people usually live at home, or with a relative, well into their 20s or until they get married. In choosing a marriage partner, the ideal is to find someone with the same or higher social status; this includes someone who is at least as light in the skin.

Heirs have equal rights under the law, but in practice it has higher chances of using different laws and regulations to their advantage.


Infant Mortality: 21 per 1000 births (2018)

Proportion of population with access to clean water: 97.4 percent (2015)

Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 93.9 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 3.2 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 1,578 (2015)

Proportion of women in parliament: 22 percent (2018)



New police force

A new police force, directly under the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, is set up to deal with the crime. The old security police Disip is replaced by a “Bolivarian security police”, Sebin. At the same time, police presence in Caracas is increasing and police wages are being increased. The military is also commanded on the streets to fight crime.


Criticized laws are adopted

Parliament adopts a new electoral law which according to the opposition favors the government. A disputed education team is also pushed through in less than two days. Another disputed law increases the state’s already far-reaching opportunities to seize land.


Yes to constitutional changes

A new referendum is being held on the constitutional amendments proposed by Chávez earlier (see December 2007), and now they are approved by 54 percent of voters. The president can thus be elected for an unlimited number of terms, which means that Chávez can stand for re-election in 2012.



Setback for Chávez in regional elections

President Hugo Chávez’s allies win in 17 of 22 regions, but they lose important attachments to the opposition, including Caracas. Manuel Rosales, Chávez’s opponent in the 2006 election, becomes mayor of Maracaibo. Shortly thereafter, Rosales, charged with corruption, is arrested. He denies the crime and says the arrest is politically motivated. Rosales later goes into exile in Peru.


The economy is getting worse

Venezuela is characterized by severe economic problems. Inflation exceeds 30 percent and there is a shortage of basic commodities in government stores. President Hugo Chávez has announced that the country’s cement industry will be nationalized and that the state will take over the largest steel company, Sidor.