Venezuelan president demands state employees to work two-day work weeks to save energy.

 A man walks past a closed office of the Prosecution in Caracas on April 22, 2016.
A man walks past a closed office of the Prosecution in Caracas on April 22, 2016.

The Venezuelan government has ordered public workers to work only two days a week on Tuesday, as an energy-saving measure in the crisis-hit South American country.

President Nicolas Maduro had already given the majority of Venezuela's 2.8 million state employees Fridays off during the months of April and May to cut down electricity consumption.

"From tomorrow, for at least two weeks, we are going to have Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays as non-working days for the public sector," Maduro said on his weekly television programme.

Previously, President Maduro reduced hours in the work day to six hours per day and put them on paid leave on Fridays, until June 6.

The vice president on Tuesday said that primary and high schools will also be closed to pupils on Fridays.

A girl does her homework by candlelight at her home during a power cut in San Cristobal, in the state of Tachira, Venezuela on April 25, 2016.

A drought has reduced water levels at Venezuela's main dam and hydroelectric plant in Guri to near-critical levels. The dam provides about two-thirds of the nation's energy needs.

Water shortages and electricity cuts have added to the hardships of Venezuela's 30 million people, already enduring a brutal recession, shortages of basics from milk to medicines, soaring prices, and long lines at shops.

After months of unscheduled outages, the government began programmed electricity rationing this week across most of Venezuela, except the capital Caracas, prompting sporadic protests in some cities.

Maduro also changed the country's clocks to have an extra half an hour of daylight in the evening, urged women to reduce use of appliances like hairdryers and ordered malls to provide their own generators.

Regarding the public sector measure, the government is excluding workers in sensitive sectors such as food.

People queue to try to buy basic food items outside a supermarket in Caracas on April 22, 2016.

Critics have derided Maduro for giving state employees days off, arguing it would hurt national productivity and is unlikely to save electricity because people would simply go home and turn on appliances there instead.

Full salaries will still be paid despite the two-day week.

Officials said the El Nino weather phenomenon is responsible for Venezuela's electricity woes.

But critics accuse the government of inadequate investment, corruption, inefficiency and failure to diversify energy sources.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies