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Employment and Job Market in Costa Rica

Employment and Job Market in Costa Rica

By 2018, Costa Rica reached 10.2% of unemployment, affecting mostly women in rural zones. This means that 242.000 individuals did not have steady income at that time. Informal work is becoming more popular without insurance, taxes or being part of statistics.


Covid-19 pandemic affected a lot of unemployment conditions for Costa Ricans because the focus was to stay safe and public health, some businesses closed and a lot of people were laid off from their work. Here’s a graphic provided by the Statistics Institute in Costa Rica showing unemployment numbers going from 2019 to the first trimester of 2022 where green is for women, red is for men and blue is for general unemployment. 

In 2020 Costa Rica had an historic number of 24.4% of unemployed people. This is the absolute worst but right now the country’s unemployment is 13.3%. It’s a significant improvement and it reflects the economic reactivation after the pandemic. 

unemployment costa rica


During the Covid-19 emergency, the government allowed public and private enterprises to reduce employees’ hours worked in order to avoid the companies firing people for not being able to pay them full time jobs. Since most families were affected by reduced hours or unemployment, sadly, the bills were barely paid and this led the country to an economic recession which eventually led to a cost of living crisis.


The government started a campaign called “Protecting Bonus”, it was an economic help for families that could prove that the pandemic caused them to be in financial trouble to pay for housing and bills. Schools started providing food rations to students so they wouldn’t go hungry


Subemployment is when a person works less than 40 hours per week but the workers look for other jobs or are willing to do extra hours. Even if unemployment for women has decreased, most of subemployment jobs are taken by them. 


As mentioned before, there are people working in an informal way: people who work for projects without legal, tax liability, insurance and other  responsibilities. Limitations for contracting informal services include that the works are non-refundable, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be well done and there’s no entity who can respond about the person you’re hiring or purchasing products from. As far as you know, they can be scammers.  But the system pushes people to prefer this option to provide for their families. There are many hard working, professional people working informally, hoping for the circumstances to get better so they can formalize their activities.


If you’re a foreigner interested in working in Costa Rica, you’re more than welcome but need to know some things first:

  • Costa Rican laws establish that a foreigner can only be hired if there’s no qualified Costa Rican candidate. To hire you, the company needs to be able to show they tried to hire someone from the country and you were the best candidate.
  • Costa Rica has a high rate of alphabetization (95.8%) and an increasing amount of bilingual people.
  • If you are a specialist in a specific area, it will be easy to get jobs in Costa Rica.
  • You can work without a work permit but it is illegal and you could be prosecuted. 


In general, the job market is improving a lot in 2022 and the perfect time to exchange careers or companies.


Karen Ebanks

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