The Benefits for Colombia of the Venezuelan Mass Exodus
The media has only focused on the downsides of the Venezuelan exodus, but Colombia could also benefit economically and culturally.
The crisis in Venezuela has eroded the migratory situation, which has had a great impact in countries where thousands of people have come to seek refuge. In this sense, Colombia has maintained an open migration policy that includes healthcare, labor, and migratory support.
This migration is having significant impacts, according to a new study presented by the World Bank, in which it points out that migrants’ lifestyle challenges are becoming increasingly complex due, in part, to difficult socioeconomic conditions.
According to the analysis, in the short term, Venezuelan migration demands greater social services, which means increased spending by the governments that are providing humanitarian assistance. As a consequence, migration is placing significant pressures on institutions, social services, the labor market, and the social dynamics of the host countries. However, the World Bank warns that this situation does not necessarily imply a negative effect, since Colombia could benefit economically from this phenomenon.
“The country needs to properly manage migration, prioritizing the rapid incorporation of migrants and returnees into the labor market and the early mitigation of vulnerabilities created by migration that can become poverty traps,” argues the study.
Approximately 1,235,593 people with intent to stay have entered Colombia from Venezuela, including returning Colombians and legal and illegal migrants, as well as a significant number of migrants who are in transit to other countries.
The World Bank estimated that Colombia will spend up to 0.26% of its GDP to serve this number of Venezuelans who are in the country.
Benefits of the Venezuelan exodus for Colombia
The PanAm Post spoke with María Clara Robayo, researcher of the Venezuela Observatory at the Universidad del Rosario, about the positive economic scenario of the Venezuelan exodus in Colombia.
According to the researcher, Colombia has the possibility of benefiting from the situation.
The migrants provide important consumption for the economy. Likewise, it is a workforce with diverse qualifications that comes to be inserted, either informally or formally, into the economy. That is, they come to contribute with work.
She added that Venezuelan migration in Colombia was not a new phenomenon since the outbreak of the humanitarian crisis in that country, headed by Nicolás Maduro. On the contrary, she assured that the phenomenon dates back to when Hugo Chávez assumed power.
“In the case of Venezuelan migration we find that it is a highly heterogeneous population; it is migration that stems not only from the humanitarian crisis, but since 1999 when Chávez came to power, prompting a migration of the elites. The migration of political elites, then economic migrants with vast amounts of capital, was a phenomenon that took place first. More than USD $1 billion arrived in Colombia through Venezuelan foreign investment.”
As the situation in Venezuela has worsened, other sectors of society have also begun to flee. The middle classes, students, and working professionals traveled between 2010 and 2014, then after the diplomatic crisis in 2015 when there was a border closure, said the researcher.
She stressed that for a long time Venezuela was one of the countries with the most developed education in the region. This is how Venezuela became a regional hub for doctoral programs in the 1980s, while other countries in Latin America, including Colombia, only did so at the beginning of the 21st century.
She added that 95% of the Venezuelan migration to Colombia is of migrants at an economically active age that ranges between 18 and 45.
They may aid in our demographic pyramid; that is to say, our demographic pyramid is increasingly flattened because over time, because the elderly retire, and must be supported by society with pensions. Let’s say that this new population, which is very young in age and insofar as they can be coupled with economic formality, could strengthen and contribute to social security payments.
She also argued that in the cultural realm Colombia can also obtain very important benefits: “In Colombia we have not had major migratory influences. In this case, the Venezuelan migration represents a factor so that finally there is a recognition of two historically unknown sister societies. Several writers point out, for example, that Colombia and Venezuela are two sisters attached at the back who do not know each other. Migration is reversing this situation.”
That is why Robayo points out that “the opportunities are there, however, the fact that a country adequately manages migration does not depend on this happening spontaneously. It has to have a regulation, it has to see migration as an opportunity and not as a threat. It has to overcome this vision of migration beyond the migration crisis, it has to think about a long-term migration policy, since this population has come to stay. The rates of return of almost all migratory processes are low, and particularly more so when Venezuela does not have a promising future at this time.”
In her opinion, what the Colombian state needs to understand is that there are opportunities, that the rigid rules that existed should be made more flexible due to the fact that there were no migratory processes before, and the Colombian government should start considering how it benefits from the income of foreign citizens.
“You also need to open the minds of Colombians so that they understand that other migrants can contribute, and not be seen as a threat. The dimensions of migration and the way they are arriving and the discourse of humanitarian crisis has generated xenophobia in our society, which is preventing the Venezuelan population from entering Colombia,” she concluded.