The FINANCIAL -- Twenty-nine percent of Venezuelans rated their lives positively enough to be considered "thriving" in 2015 -- the lowest figure in the 10 years Gallup has been tracking this measure -- and about twice as many (61%) are "struggling." These numbers were almost flipped in 2010 when Venezuela led the region in thriving. These are just two of several measures that illustrate how Venezuelans' lives have been turned upside down as their country teeters on the brink of collapse.
For the past decade, Gallup has asked residents of Latin American countries and the rest of the world to evaluate their lives on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, where "0" represents the worst possible life, and "10" represents the best possible life. Gallup classifies people as "thriving" if they rate their current lives a 7 or higher and their lives in five years an 8 or higher, and "suffering" if they rate both their current and future life situations a 4 or lower. Those in the middle are "struggling."
These latest data come amid seismic political shifts in Venezuela's political landscape. A victory by the opposition party in December's parliamentary elections, in response to the deeply unpopular President Nicolas Maduro, has initiated volatile partisan warfare among the government's three branches. A mass effort to recall Maduro is underway, with nearly 2 million Venezuelans signing a petition to oust him. The political drama is intensified by the dire needs of the country's 30 million people, whose food and basic services have been cautiously rationed. Venezuelans also suffer water and electricity shortages, inflation and violent crime as the price of oil, the country's main export, has plummeted.
The government has taken measures such as reducing public-sector work hours, with an exception of workers in the food industry. Meanwhile, private food corporations have been ordered to evacuate their warehouses for government-built, low-income housing. Maduro has placed blame for much of the nation's woes on the private sector, which has had an icy relationship with the president.
Nearly Half of Venezuelans Report Inability to Afford Food in Past Year
Nearly half of Venezuelans (45%) say there have been times in the past year when they did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed. Although there have been times over the past decade when as many Venezuelans have been struggling to afford food, the proportion has been above 40% since 2013.
Grocery shopping in Venezuela has become a daunting task. In addition to the massive price inflation, food and other necessities are in great shortage -- leading to government rationing of products and long lines for customers.
Majority Find It "Difficult" or "Very Difficult" to Get by on Current Income
For the first time since Gallup began tracking the measure, the majority of Venezuelans (58%) now say they find it "difficult" or "very difficult" to get by on their current income. This comes despite four minimum wage hikes enacted by Maduro in 2015. The president ordered yet another 30% increase on May 1. But severe inflation continues to limit any benefit from salary increases.
About half as many Venezuelans (39%) report that they are "living comfortably" or "getting by" on their current household income as they did in 2008 (75%). The latest figure is a new low in the trend and is the first time that less than half of residents report having positive feelings about their household income.
Majority of Venezuelans Now See Their Standard of Living as Getting Worse
Also for the first time in the past decade, the majority of Venezuelans see their living standard as getting worse. They are now more than three times as likely to say their standard of living is "getting worse" (58%) as they are to say it is "getting better" (18%).
Venezuelans will face myriad economic and political challenges in the coming years. The country's economy crumpled with dramatic drops in oil prices in 2014 and 2015 -- and improvements in several measures of residents' well-being may be at least somewhat contingent upon a rebound in oil prices. Many criticize the oil-focused mentality of the government before the price drop as leaders failed to diversify the economy and spent the commodity's earnings so quickly, positioning Venezuela for an economic struggle once prices fell.
A political battle within different branches of the country's government is further complicating things for Venezuelans. As a newly empowered opposition party in the nation's Congress spars with the president and Supreme Court, political change is less than certain. All the while, critics of how the government has handled the food crisis argue that it could be easing strains on farmers, which would, in turn, alleviate the overall crisis.