Colombia plans temporary work permit for undocumented Venezuelans: official

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia is preparing a temporary work permit for undocumented Venezuelans, part of an effort to reduce off-the-books jobs that often pay less than the minimum wage while depriving state programs of revenues, a government official said on Monday.

Colombia has been the top destination for Venezuelans fleeing their country’s crippling economic crisis in recent years, putting pressure on its public health, education and welfare systems while fueling concerns about impacts on wages.

“We cannot permit that the migrants’ main asset is that they are cheaper to hire informally,” Colombia’s deputy labor minister, Andres Felipe Uribe, told journalists.

“That’s why we’re going to start to put in place rules for a special work permit so that the moment a Venezuelan is hired illegally they can receive a formal work proposal,” Uribe added.

Uribe said Venezuelans must receive the same labor rights as Colombian workers, including wages of at least 925,148 pesos ($288) per month and enrollment in health and pension programs.

In 2017, Colombia created a two-year special permit that allowed Venezuelans to work and reside in the country, but stopped accepting new applicants months later. Today, less than half of the 1.3 million Venezuelans in Colombia live there legally, according to Colombia’s immigration department.

Reporting By Luis Jaime Acosta, Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by Cynthia Osterman