Venezuela's economically active population in 1999 was 9.9 million. The distribution of employment among major economic sectors was as follows: services, 64%; industry, 23%; and agriculture, 13%. The unemployment rate was 14.1% as of 2001.
The Venezuelan labor movement, for all practical purposes, had its inception in 1928 with the formation of the Syndicalist Labor Federation of Venezuela. The movement, stunted by the Gómez dictatorship, grew rapidly after his death. After the election of Betancourt, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela—CTV), which had been founded between 1945 and 1948 but outlawed by Pérez Jiménez, was reconstituted. Another major labor federation, the National Movement of Workers for Liberation (Movimiento Nacional de Trabajadores para la Liberación—MONTRAL), was formed in 1974. CTV has remained Venezuela's major labor confederation. The comprehensive Labor Code enacted in 1990 provides all public sector and private sector employees (except members of the armed forces) the right to form and join unions. Strikes are permitted but may not be called before a conciliation attempt is made. Voluntary arbitration is encouraged, but arbitration may be ordered by the Ministry of Labor; awards are binding on all parties for a period of not less than six months. If no agreement is reached, a strike may be called 120 hours after the government labor inspector has been notified. Approximately 10% of the labor force was unionized as of 2002.
The labor code sets the maximum workweek at 44 hours. Labor laws include provisions for an eight-hour day and a paid vacation of at least 15 workdays a year. In 2002 the monthly minimum wage was $220 in the private sector for urban workers and $198 for rural workers. Minimum wage workers in the private sector received mandatory food and transport bonuses. Until the age of 16, minors may work only with restrictions as to hours and working conditions. The labor ministry effectively enforces these provisions in the formal economic sector but more than one million children were believed to be working in the informal economy in 2002.