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Excerpted from the Costa Rica Career Guide

General Trends

Costa Rica is an upper-middle income country with a constitutional democracy, a stable economy and a high standard of living. The population is the most literate in Central America, with a literacy rate of 97 percent.

Nearly three-quarters of the population lives in the Central Valley, where the capital San José is located. San José is the second most-business-friendly city in Central America, after Panama City, according to the World Bank.

Foreign-born residents comprise about 9 percent of the population, and about 75 percent of foreigners are from Nicaragua. Illegal immigration from Nicaragua is a source of tension in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s economy has grown significantly over the past 25 years, driven by exports, trade liberalization and foreign investment.

Employment Outlook

The unemployment rate is between 8.6 and 10 percent, a historically high figure. Sub-employment is at 13.4 percent. More women are unemployed than men, and unemployment is especially high among young people, reaching 23 percent.

Overall hiring intentions are expected to remain positive but are weak compared to previous years; the outlook is down to the lowest levels since 2009, according to the Manpower employment agency. Only 10 percent of employers plan to hire new employees, and 85 percent expect to make no changes at all to their staff.

Areas of Job Promise

High technology: The government is working to attract high tech manufacturing and service companies needing skilled labor. The government also seeks companies that maintain strong CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs. Most companies establish themselves in the Free Trade Zones. Free-trade zones are located near Limon/Moin and Puntarenas as well as throughout the Central Valley. Furthermore, the Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) has increased opportunities in wireless communications, telecom and Internet.

Infrastructure: Basic infrastructure, such as ports, roads and water systems, are in need of major repairs. Legal and procedural issues have hampered and delayed key private-public infrastructure projects however; jobseekers are advised to monitor the situation.


Costa Rica offers the highest average annual salary in Central America at 10,103 USD, or about 485,070 CRC monthly.

Public workers earn on average 811,010 CRC monthly, while private-sector workers earn 355,062 CRC monthly on average. Independent workers earn 327,244 CRC monthly on average. Unqualified workers earn 176,281 CRC monthly on average.

This is just a sample of what you'll find in the complete Costa Rica guide.

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