In 1999, some 10.225 million Venezuelans were part of the formal labor force (accounted for in official statistics), but it is possible that another 4 million workers may be part of the informal labor force (workers, mostly in menial jobs, who lack legal protections and benefits). Working conditions in Venezuela appear to vary according to the degree of urbanization that the worker enjoys, with more workers in cities represented by a union. Many of the work benefits made available by the Venezuelan Social Security Institute (such as maternity benefits or payment for work-related illnesses) are less available to rural workers than to their urban counterparts. Although only 25 percent of workers in the formal labor force are organized, the unions have been able to exert an influence over politics that is far greater than the number of workers they represent. For example, unions were instrumental in getting a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage in 1999 and a 20 percent increase in 2000. The Constitution of 1999 includes progressive provisions that regulate working hours and conditions.
Urbanization has also encouraged the increased participation and empowerment of women in the Venezuelan workforce. In 1987, women constituted 31 percent of the labor force. Still, women continue to receive lower salaries than men for comparable work, and are more likely to be members of the informal labor sector.
Venezuelans with a university degree are more likely to hold the prestigious jobs in business and the professions, and they are generally more philanthropic and active in their communities than their counterparts in other South American countries.