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GENEVA: As the Venezuelan government continues to threaten the employee security of 24 airlines by illegally blocking the repatriation of US$3.9 billion owed to them, a new report from the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) says the industry currently supports 58.1 million jobs and generates US$2.4 trillion in global GDP.

The study looks at the economic and social benefits of the industry around the world and examines the sector's environmental progress.Aeropuerto Nacional

ATAG executive director Michael Gill said: "This year marks the hundredth year of regular scheduled airline operations. In the last century, we have served over 65 billion passengers and opened up new forms of family connections, friendship and business. One aspect of the aviation sector often overlooked is the benefits that rapid, safe and good value air travel brings to the wider economy and society.

According to IATA, the Venezuela government has a different view: In December 2013 airport charges were hiked by 70 percent with no consultation or improvement in services provided and new taxes have been levied to fund activities completely unrelated to air transport. As a result, 11 of the 24 airlines operating in Venezuela have reduced operations between 15 percent and 78 percent while one has stopped flying to the country altogether.

Commenting on the behaviour of Venezuela's post-Chavez government, IATA director-general and CEO Tony Tyler said the failure to release the airline money puts at risk a major contributor to the well-being of the the country's economy—sustainable air connectivity. "The situation is unacceptable. Airlines are committed to serving the Venezuelan market but they cannot sustain operations indefinitely if they can't get paid."

The ATAG report says of the current 58.1 million aviation industry jobs, 8.7 million are within the sector itself; suppliers employ nearly 10 million more and the tourism industry supports a further 35 million.

"It is clear that aviation is a vital component of modern life," said Gill. "Aside from the employment supported by the sector, aviation helps generate 3.4 percent of global GDP. We transport US$6.4 trillion worth of cargo – over a third of the value of world trade."

The report's authors say that based on current rates of aviation growth, the industry will support 103 million jobs and contribute $5.8 trillion to global GDP by 2032 – assuming governments cooperate.

"Air transport is growing rapidly, particularly in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East as these economies expand and emerging middle classes are able to take advantage of the benefits of air travel. However, at a global level, the analysis tells us that even a one percent lower aviation growth rate could reduce the 2032 job count by 12.4 million jobs," Gill said.

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