Venezuelans in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru

A Development Opportunity

One in every four Venezuelans has left the country since 2014. 

The majority now live in other Latin American countries and intend to stay there. We compared data of migrants and refugees with host populations in four of these countries and found that, if managed well, human mobility is an opportunity for development for refugees, migrants and host countries.

Dr. Nestor Guillermo Márquez, a 53-year-old physician from Venezuela, at the “Los Olivos de Pro” rehabilitation center in Lima, Peru. All the personnel at the center are Venezuelan. While many of the Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Peru are highly qualified professionals, they oftentimes face administrative and other hurdles that make it difficult to work in their fields. This is particularly true for doctors and other medical staff, who often have trouble validating their Venezuelan diplomas in Peru. Before he was hired at the center, Dr. Márquez supported his family by working as a traveling book salesman.

Large numbers of Venezuelans in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru travelled as families, and most registered upon arrival. The economic crisis was the main reason that Venezuelans in Chile and Ecuador left their home country. Secondly, about one in five Venezuelans in these two countries reported violence and insecurity as a reason for leaving, a result driven by those with secondary and tertiary education. No data on the reasons for leaving were available for Colombia or Peru.

Sending remittances is prevalent among Venezuelans in Chile (73%) and Peru (58%) but is less common in Colombia (25%). Employed and better-educated Venezuelans were more likely to send remittances back to Venezuela. Our results suggest that the need for access to education and health services for children is more pressing in Colombia, and, to a lesser extent, Ecuador than it is in Chile and Peru. Providing access to labor markets—accompanied by technical education, training, and other programs to enhance the match with the local labor market—seems particularly relevant in Chile.

Venezuelan migrants differ from host populations in several ways. In all four countries, the proportion of migrants of prime working age (25–45) is larger than among hosts, particularly in Chile. In Colombia, households of Venezuelan migrants are significantly larger than those of host communities, while the difference is narrower in Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. Migrants in Colombia report an average of five members per household, while the average household size of hosts is three. In Chile, host and migrant households are small (about three members) and, in Peru and Ecuador, host households are slightly larger than the households of Venezuelan migrants.

In all countries, Venezuelan migrants 18 and older are more educated than their host country peers on average. In Chile and Ecuador, Venezuelan migrants are considerably more likely than the host population to have some tertiary education. However, despite having higher education, most Venezuelan migrants have not certified their academic titles in their host countries due to the lack of required documents and information. This hurdle partly explains why many migrants are employed below their skill level and mostly in the informal sector. Our report suggests creating or simplifying qualification recognition mechanisms, as well as guiding migrants on this process.


Venezuelan migrants are more likely to be employed than hosts in all countries except Colombia, where the difference is very small. However, they are often employed below their skill level, limiting the economic benefits of migration. Venezuelan migrants are more likely to work in service and sales than the host population. In the two countries for which wage data were available (Colombia and Peru), they also earn less and there is a significant gender wage gap is observed for both migrants and hosts. In Colombia, the wage gap between Venezuelan men and women is $110. In Peru, it is $154. In both countries, both men and women from host communities earn higher wage income than migrants. In both countries, Venezuelans’ wages increase with education levels, but the differences are not as marked as they are for hosts.

Colombia is the only country in which the employment rate of women is lower for migrants than for hosts, possibly as a result of the presence of larger migrant households in the country. Marital status and household size are negatively correlated with the probability of a migrant being employed. One additional household member for a Venezuelan migrant in Colombia is associated with a decrease of 2.5 percent in monthly wage.

Involuntary migration is often treated as a short-term issue, but migration is rarely temporary. The vast majority of Venezuelans report wanting to stay in the country where they are currently located. That is 96 percent in Colombia, 82 percent in Chile, 76 percent in Peru, and 66 percent in Ecuador. However, social integration is low and mainly limited to religious activity. The share of Venezuelans who report taking part in religious activities is 39% in Ecuador, 11% in Colombia, 8% in Chile, and 7% in Peru.

From 26 to 40% of Venezuelans in Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador have felt discriminated against. In Colombia and Peru, older migrants (46–65) and migrants in large households tend to face lower levels of discrimination than other migrants. In Colombia, migrants with tertiary level of education tend to report more discrimination than migrants with lower levels of education. The data show that younger and older people hold more prosocial views toward Venezuelan migrants than middle-aged people.

Detailed socioeconomic profiles of Venezuelan migrants and host communities were obtained from recent household surveys of both populations in each country. The methods and timing of the migrant and host surveys were not identical across countries. For Ecuador, the surveys were administered simultaneously by phone. In Chile, the surveys were conducted close in time but through different methods (by phone for migrants and face-to-face for hosts). In Colombia and Peru, the surveys of hosts were conducted a few months before the surveys of migrants, in the context of a robust economic recovery, which may have resulted in less favorable labor outcomes for hosts. In Colombia, the migrant survey was conducted over the phone and the host survey in person. In Peru, both surveys were implemented in person. Phone surveys usually overrepresent educated and wealthier individuals.

Policy recommendations

Economic inclusion of Venezuelans in host countries

The large majority of Venezuelans abroad are of prime working age (26–36). On average, they are more educated than host populations. The policy response should facilitate their access to the labor market and grant them labor rights that are comparable to those of hosts, in order to prevent exploitation.

Social inclusion of Venezuelans and incentivizing prosocial behavior toward them

The formation of social networks in host communities can help migrants develop a feeling of belonging. Targeted integration
programs to foster the formation of social capital and efforts to expand opportunities for migrants and hosts to engage with one another in daily and civic life can promote social integration. 

Access to basic services such as education and health

The movement of Venezuelans in such a short period has put pressure on the provision of basic services. The challenge is magnified
by the fact that migrants usually concentrate in certain areas and regions. Coordination across multiple levels of government is necessary, as
these services are decentralized.

Collection and analysis of data

Systematic registration of migrants in national systems and reliable and updated information on migrants are needed. National statistical systems need to include migrants in official national household surveys or conduct migrant-specific surveys.




















Data and method

All surveys analyzed in the research were standardized and are available for download.

You can use the data to reproduce our results or create your own analyzes on Venezuelan migration.

Contact and media inquiries

Melany Markham (UNHCR)

[email protected]