Costa Rica is, in absolute numbers the largest recipient of labour migration in the region, this according to the report of the regional office of the Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT), a division of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The report estimates some 300.000 migrant workers living in Costa Rica, representing 7% of the country’s total population. The largest group of workers are from Nicaragua, representing 75% of all migrant workers.
The report stresses that the majority of migrant workers are looking for better living conditions and better job and become part of the “secondary labour market” such as in agriculture, construction and domestic services, sectors that seek unskilled and cheap labour.
Nicaragua is a country that historically has produced large number of migrant workers because of low wages and labour opportunities.
Regarding the characteristics of migrant labourers arriving in Costa Rica, the report notes mostly men of working age, between 25 and 34, but increasingly there is a trend towards more women.
Migrant women workers in Costa Rica account for 30% of all people who come to the country to work, working mostly for low pay, often in precarious conditions.
In general terms, despite there has always been a mobilization of workers between the countries in the region, there are three factors that stand out today.
First, says the report, is the economic and cultural factors that countries in Central America have suffered in the last three decades. second is the ease of mobility mainly due to agreements between countries that allows crossing of borders easier. And third, the economic crisis in the U.S. and Europe has led many to seek opportunities closer to home.
Although the report noted that Costa Rica is the largest recipient of foreign workers in the region, the study forecasts a different future.
The report says that El Salvador and Panama as the countries that could see growth in migration reception. It cites the growing influx of Hondurans and Nicaraguans labourers reaching out to them and employment opportunities created in infrastructure projects, one the expansion of the canal in Panama.