Census Figures Show Reduction in Poverty in Venezuela over Last Decade

Representatives from Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics (INE) officially revealed some of the most important conclusions from the 14th National Census of Population and Housing to the Venezuelan public this week.


The most potent conclusion drawn from the census, which was conducted during 2011, was that extreme poverty levels have significantly been reduced in the ten previous years.

In 2001, 11.36% of the population were measured to be suffering from extreme poverty, while President of the INE, Elias Eljuri, announced that the 2011 census showed that currently only 6.97% are in a similar situation, a reduction of nearly half in the past 10 years, and one which he described as “very significant”.

Other conclusions presented to the population include a rise in life expectancy, from 74.5 years to 79.5 years and a 16% rise in the general population numbers, from 24.8 million inhabitants to 28.9 million in 2011.

Furthermore, it was announced that of those 28.9 million, 88.8% currently live in urban areas, while 11.2% live in rural areas, and that the percentage of the population classed as indigenous rose from 2.3% in 2001 to 2.8% in 2011, with 700,000 citizens currently being classed as indigenous.

Such figures reinforce the success of the social policies of the revolutionary government of Hugo Chavez, particularly in the health sector, as well as the infrastructure of basic necessities, but also the education and alimentary sectors.

The National Coordinator of the Census, Luis Geronimo, drew attention to the fact that despite the rise in the general population, the rate of growth is slowly decreasing, meaning that the population will continue growing in the future, just at a slower pace. Furthermore, he stated that there had been a reduction in births and a rise in deaths since 2001, showing that the population is gradually aging.

“For 2050 we expect to be about 40 million people, with a growth rate lower than 0.5%” he explained. “These are demographic changes which all of the countries in the world are demonstrating where there is a process of demographic transition”.

The average family size has also reduced, he explained. “Now we are at less than 3 children (per female), and for 2050 we expect to arrive at less than 2 children per female. Also, we expect that less women have children, unless there are important migratory processes which change this tendency”.

Such figures show the changes in equality achieved in the last 10 years, allowing women to have better access than ever before to secure jobs, and high level positions, and not be only expected to fulfill the child bearer role in society.

Eljuri explained the methods used by the INE to measure the levels of poverty in the country, in order to preempt accusations from certain political sectors that the statistics have been modified for political ends.

Eljuri explained that the INE used the five basic necessities promoted by the Economic Commission for Latin America (Cepal) to evaluate the levels of poverty.

The five necessities which represent poverty are: (1) households with children between 7 and 12 years old which don’t attend any school; (2) households which have more than 3 people living in a room; (3) households who live in a house with inadequate construction; (4) households without access to drinkable water or sewerage; and (5) households with more than 3 members where the head of household has less than 3 grades of basic education.

Eljuri explained that this system is called the Unsatisfied Basic Needs system (NBI), and is used to evaluate those households in poverty, extreme poverty, and outside of poverty.

“A household in poverty is that where at least 1 of these 5 factors are applicable; a household in extreme poverty is that where 2 or more are applicable; and a household outside of poverty is that which has all 5 of the necessities met”.

Using this system, he showed figures that demonstrate that households outside of poverty have risen from 67% in 2001 to 75.43% in 2011, and that “the total of those in poverty have reduced from 21.64% to 17.6%”. “In all indications examined”, he concluded, “there was an important reduction of poverty”.

He also highlighted that critical overcrowding has reduced from 15.12% to 10.10%, while inadequate house construction has reduced from 9.38% to 8.69%. Similarly, households without basic water and sewerage services have reduced from 14.79% to 8.88%.

He also highlighted that the figures from the census are fully transparent and available to the public on the INE website. Furthermore, impressive as they are, the figures, he explained, do not take into account certain changes seen during 2012 which, according to Eljuri, have had dramatic effects on the demographics of the nation, predominantly the housing Mission Vivienda which was launched towards the end of 2011.

The 346,000 houses and apartments built during the end of 2011 and 2012 were not taken into account in the census which was conducted during the first 8 months of 2011, and he expects that this mission, amongst other factors, will mean that poverty levels are, today, in fact even lower than the figures shown in 2011.

There are estimations, he explained, that combined poverty will have closed 2012 at around about 6.5%, down significantly from the 2011 figures, due to such changes in the housing of the population bought about by government policies.

He finally observed that Venezuela has seen the most significant decrease in poverty in the last 10 years in the continent, and that it continues having the lowest rate of inequality in the continent.

Despite complete clarity by the INE of their methods and results, certain self-proclaimed ‘experts’ have already appeared in the opposition means of communication claiming that the results have been engineered for political gains, or suggesting that the methods used by the INE did not meet satisfactory levels of thoroughness.

Such ‘experts’ provided no proof or evidence for such claims, and merely claimed that there were certain vague “problems” with the census, while at the same time failing to recognize the gains and successes the population has experienced under Chavez’s presidency.

Such statistics are to be used to further enable the strategic planning of the points of attention of governmental policies which address housing, infrastructure, education, access to basic necessities, and especially for the future of the public housing program, which plans to build 380,000 more high quality houses and apartments in 2013 alone.