Economists Are Worrying About the Mass Migration of Educated Workers Out of Venezuela

Boy reading book

More Latin Americans are likely to leave their home countries after earning a higher education degree, according to new reports.

At least 5% of the country’s population, once numbering 30 million citizens, have left to find work in other countries. The majority of these workers are Venezuela’s “brightest minds,” as Business Insider describes them, and include every type of highly-educated adult, from IT workers to medical professionals.

This mass exodus of talented workers isn’t just limited to Venezuela, Business Insider reported, but the effect is especially profound in this particular country right now.

Although the issue hasn’t received much press until recently, many Venezuelans have fled from President Nicolas Maduro’s restrictive socialist regime, despite his government’s best efforts. For years now, the country’s Department of Education has been tailoring its educational systems to promote socialism — coincidentally, right as the socialist government began losing control.

In the U.S., it’s typical for children to begin attending preschool between the ages of three and four; over a million young students are enrolled in preschool classes each year in order to get a jumpstart on learning their ABCs and 123s (according to data collected between 2011 and 2013).

In Venezuela, it isn’t that simple. Young children who are still able to attend school — which isn’t very many students anymore, for what it’s worth — begin learning complex political and economic lessons which are hidden in virtually every single lesson and textbook. A Foreign Policy report from April 2014 referenced the following math problem from a Venezuelan textbook distributed to 4th grade students:

“In a socialist arepa restaurant, an arepa and a juice cost 12 bolívars.
If three families of five people go out to eat, and they consume 21 arepas and 21 juices, how much did they spend?” 

The exercise is pulled from a math book, but the explicit reference to a government-subsidized arepa restaurant is the confusing part.

Since 2011, according to a Yahoo! News article published earlier this year, President Nicolas Maduro’s Department of Education has been distributing textbooks filled with these sorts of questions. Parents have spoken out against these textbooks in the past, saying that they’re unnecessarily filled with references to socialism and references to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

The government’s goal is to teach young students, right when they begin learning how to read and compute math problems, that socialism is an accepted and natural part of society.

The only problem is, it’s not really working.

After the price of crude oil dropped dramatically last year, the Venezuelan economy — which has relied on oil exports for approximately 95% of its national revenue — began tanking.

Workers began leaving Venezuela left and right, as the recent Business Insider articles have shown. The country’s currency, the bolívar, is virtually worthless and few countries are willing to export items at all because of it. Because of the severe shortages on government-subsidized items like toilet paper and bread, most Venezuelans rely on the black market for everything.

As more Venezuelans flee from the socialist regime, it’s becoming clearer that no amount of textbook propaganda can save Maduro’s Chavez-inspired socialist government. What isn’t clear yet is whether the country will able to rebuild without its educated citizens.