Por Alejandra Orias Garita – Student of International Relations

International migratory movements are a phenomenon that affects the foreign policies of the receiving States, forcing them in many cases to put into operation policies that affect various government ministries and administrations, whose actions require coordination that are difficult to achieve. Going more deeply in this case, it is necessary to highlight that in the last two decades international migration has become a relevant topic on the public agenda in Costa Rica. However, beyond discussing the public actions of Costa Rica before other international actors in terms of emerging immigration, this opinion article aims to identify the economic impact that this broad movement of people presents within the Costa Rican panorama, concluding in its importance as a fundamental factor in shaping the foreign policy of the Central American nation. Therefore, to what extent is immigration a beneficial element for the Costa Rican economy?

On the one hand, referring to benefits, it could be mentioned that “immigrants constitute an important source of labor in Costa Rica” (OECD/OIT, 2020). As Abissi (2020) mentions, they are likely to have a higher labor participation rate compared to the local population. This also represents a contribution percentage of 11.9% of the value-added in Costa Rica, above the total percentage, they represent in the population (9.1%). Even while the labor participation of national men decreased slightly to 74%, the participation of immigrants remained stable at 80% (OECD, 2020). It is also necessary to emphasize that immigrant women perform relatively well in the labor market compared to their native counterparts (OECD, 2020).

However, it is essential to recognize that a large part of these benefits is hampered by the climate of inequality experienced by the immigrant community, making it necessary to guarantee a better labor environment and accessibility. This not only increases their economic participation and improves conditions but takes full advantage of the impact of immigrants on development. On the other hand, a counter argument arises from the perspective of some Costa Ricans who do not feel comfortable with the job opportunity that immigrants receive. This alleges that “given the considerable portion of immigrants in the labor market, it is likely that immigrants will replace indigenous workers in certain jobs” (Abissi, 2020).

While it is true, those “certain jobs” that are being talked about belong to sectors where immigrants are overrepresented, which are sectors with low productivity, such as construction, hotels, and agriculture; and sectors that register high informal unemployment, like domestic service. The reality is that these same sectors have been largely relegated by the native population (Paniagua, 2007), not only allowing the immigrant population to make their way to these jobs but also leaving all the responsibility to immigrants. This is the case of the harvest activity, where the ticos despise the coffee pickings and it is thanks to the migrants that the harvest is carried out (Diario Extra, 2019). Therefore, it could be mentioned that the immigrant population is not only an important source of labor, but a necessary source for the Costa Rican labor sector.

Finally, and recovering the initial thesis, it is necessary to mention that in the Costa Rican panorama, immigration generates important benefits for the country. Therefore, there falls the importance of analyzing the impact of this marginalized population on the national economy, and it is the opportunity for the government to take actions based on the development interests of the nation and generate policies that aim to facilitate the integration of the migrant community. After all, this would increase de facto access to public services and the labor market, in order to boost not only the economic contribution of immigrants but the level of benefits that Costa Rica receives from them. It should be noted that this answer is not totally complete since it is limited to the economic analysis of the impact of this population. However, effective analysis is shown that alleges a higher level of relevance of immigration in Costa Rica's external agenda.


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  • Abissi, M. (2020). Los 12 datos más importantes sobre los inmigrantes en Costa Rica, según la OCDE. https://www.elfinancierocr.com/economia-y-politica/los-12-datos-mas-importantes-sobre-los-inmigrantes/HTUDCPCISNGTJDDNB2G3M4RBDE/story/
  • Diario Extra. (2019). Ticos desprecian cogidas de café. https://www.diarioextra.com/Noticia/detalle/400030/ticos-desprecian-cogidas-de-caf%E9
  • OCDE/OIT. (2020). Cómo los inmigrantes contribuyen a la economía de Costa Rica. Éditions OCDE, París. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264303867-es
  • Paniagua, L. (2007). Labour and social situation of Nicaraguan people in Costa Rica. https://revistas.ucr.ac.cr/index.php/sociales/article/download/11013/10394/