Venezuelan oil sector workers are arguably among the worst paid employees in the world, a Venezuelan union found.

Workers in positions spanning from a refining operator to a superintendent are taking home minimum monthly salaries of $20-$40, according to recent details revealed by Venezuela oil union official Ivan Freites.

While the workers also receive monthly food stipends, the combined pay package still offers little or no incentives for them to continue in the oil sector of a country with frequent oil spills, plant explosions and even pirate attacks in Lake Maracaibo, a once booming oil region in western Venezuela.

Venezuela oil salary chart
(Source: Data compiled by Venezuelan oil union official Ivan Freites)

Venezuela’s oil sector struggles to regain relevance under the strain of ongoing political uncertainties, and more recently, U.S. sanctions. A mass exodus of citizens escaping the country’s political, economic and humanitarian crises continues to fuel a brain drain of talent from the oil sector.

“People continue to leave Venezuela to escape violence, insecurity and threats, as well as lack of food, medicine and essential services,” the U.N. said on its website. “With over 7 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants worldwide, the vast majority in countries within Latin America and the Caribbean, this has become one of the largest displacement crises in the world.”

Venezuela’s oil production, which consultancy IPD said averaged around 700,000 bbl/d in late 2022, is still far from the 3.2 MMbbl/d it produced in 1997, according to OPEC data.

However, a recent authorization granted to California’s Chevron Corp. from the U.S. Office of Assets Control (OFAC) has excited many former oil sector workers in Venezuela looking to reenter the workforce despite the low salaries. Whether more oil sector work opportunities emerge will depend on Washington’s willingness to ease sanctions further and the political will of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to offer “free and fair” elections in 2024.