Job losses, low wages add to Venezuela economic hardship

Multiple companies - local and foreign - are closing doors or cutting payrolls across Venezuela, which despite its oil wealth is suffering deep recession, triple-digit inflation and chronic shortages.

According to Consecomercio, a major retail industry group, Venezuela in the past 18 months lost close to 1 million private sector jobs.

Government critics say nationalizations of businesses and more than a decade of price and currency controls have crippled private enterprise.

A survey by three universities found that 38 percent of those surveyed were working informal jobs ranging from buying and reselling goods to freelance work without benefits. Only 28 percent said they were public employees and 27 percent had a job in the private sector.

Union sources said major companies such as food and beermaker Polar, carmaker Ford (F.N) and bottler Cola-Cola Femsa (KOFL.MX) all are reducing their workforce by negotiating redundancies and offering employees buyouts.

"People are taking the packages," said Jhonny Magdaleno, who leads a Polar union. "Production has fallen too much," he said. "The workers who are left are making 4,000 bolivars weekly ($1 at the black market rate). That doesn't even enable them to buy a pack of flour."