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The Integration of Venezuelan Migrants into the Argentine Labor Force: Examining underemployment, its causes, and potential solutions

Schwartz, Steven

Over the last five years, Venezuelans have left their home country in historic numbers in order to escape economic and political crises at home. Although scattering across the globe, most Venezuelans are re-locating to other countries in Latin America. Argentina has received over 125,000 Venezuelan migrants since 2012, most of whom reside in the capital city of Buenos Aires. The core of this thesis examines how well these migrants are integrating economically into the Argentine workforce and to what extent underemployment is a problem.

To accomplish this objective, 278 Venezuelan adult migrants residing in Argentina were surveyed about their experiences navigating the labor market in Argentina. Interviews were also conducted with a variety of individuals from different backgrounds and levels of association with the Venezuelan migrant community in Argentina. These included, among others, interviews with leaders of Venezuelan professional associations in medicine and engineering, the head of a prominent Venezuelan community outreach organization, an academic from Argentina’s National Research Council (CONICET), and a representative from Argentina’s Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (DNM).

Findings show that underemployment is perceived as a serious problem among Venezuelan migrants with over 50% of survey respondents claiming to be underemployed. Causes of underemployment were found to result from different factors that often vary based on profession. These primarily include difficulties with obtaining degree accreditation, the poor state of the current Argentine economy, a mismatch between the skills of Venezuelan workers and the demands of the Argentine economy, high costs of living in regions where suitable jobs are available, and in some cases, discrimination. The underemployment of Venezuelan engineers and medical doctors, two of the largest professional groups among Venezuelans, was examined more closely and in both cases underemployment was found to be a problem, but for different reasons.

The Argentine government has already taken important actions towards reducing underemployment among Venezuelan migrants and facilitating their economic integration that are already showing signs of success. Recommendations for additional action that can be taken are offered and encouraged since reducing underemployment will be beneficial not only for migrants but also for the economic health of Argentina in the long run. These include subsidizing the cost of housing in areas of the country that are currently prohibitively expensive for migrants to live and work, offering programs of micro-credit for migrant entrepreneurs or independent contractors, fining employers who refuse to hire migrants that have only provisional residency, and allowing migrants to begin the degree accreditation process earlier with only provisional residency. However, the current poor state of the Argentine economy and the need to address the economic concerns of natives will likely limit the attention and resources given towards further improving the welfare of Venezuelan migrants.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute of Latin American Studies
Thesis Advisors
Azenha, Gustavo S.
Moya, Jose C.
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
March 3, 2020

Notes

Suggested Keywords: Venezuelan Migration, Modern Argentine Immigration, Latin American Migration, Immigrant Underemployment, Immigrant Unemployment, Venezuelan Migrants, Argentine Immigration Policy, Underemployment