efe-epaCaracas

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro extended the decree banning layoffs in the country until 2020, the executive vice president Delcy Rodriguez announced on Friday.

In an address broadcast on state television VTV, Rodriguez said that the move was part of the fundamental line of defense and protection of workers being implemented by the government with its most recent economic announcements.

The measure forbids companies from laying off workers without going through a long and expensive process, established by late president Hugo Chavez in Apr. 2002.

Venezuela's main business body, Fedecamaras, did not comment on the measure, although it has said in the past that the decree constitutes a serious problem for companies and undermines productivity.

The decision to extend the decree comes in the midst of a serious economic crisis in Venezuela, which has led to shortages, hyperinflation and a sharp fall in the country's gross domestic product, which has shrunk 53 percent since 2013, according to parliament's calculations.

Maduro launched an economic program in August to try to tackle the crisis but the plan was criticized by entrepreneurs, opponents and experts who called it incomplete and inappropriate and said it would feed hyperinflation.

Currently, the monthly minimum wage in the country is 4,500 bolivars, barely $7, according to the official exchange rate.