Saturday 2 December 2023

OECD: Ticos work a lot of hours, but they don’t generate as much wealth as some other countries

Dependence on PYMEs and disconnection from the world market would explain part of the phenomenon, resulting in basic goods and services being more expensive in Costa Rica than in nearby countries

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2 December 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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Q COSTA RICA – Costa Ricans (Ticos) are hardworking – they rank second in hours worked per year compared to the other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

They put in 2,073 hours per year, only surpassed by Mexicans, who work 2,128 hours in the same period.

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Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean they have a high level of productivity. In fact, they have the fifth lowest productivity out of the so-called ‘Club of the Rich’ Countries.

When looking at income per capita in thousands of dollars, Ticos generate about US$19,000 a year, whereas Germans only have to work 1,349 hours to make an average of US$49,000 per person.

So, the Germans work 724 hours less yet generate more than double the earnings per person compared to the Costa Ricans.

Currently, Costa Rica legislators are discussing a bill that would enable 12-hour workdays four days a week, in exchange for three days off. The 4×3 days would only apply to 10% of the population, according to supporters.

However, according to an OECD report, the country’s low productivity is partly due to its dependence on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) – Pequeña y mediana empresas (PYMES) in Spanish – and not connecting to the world market.
Although the productivity level is lower than other emerging economies like those in Eastern Europe and Asia, it’s still similar to that of other Latin American countries, but below other emerging economies, such as those of Eastern Europe or Asia.


According to the OECD report, between 85% and 90% of the companies in Costa Rica are SMEs, focused mainly on the local market.

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Basically what the OECD is saying is that Costa Rica’s economy is a mix of big companies that are making money from trading with other countries, and smaller businesses that mostly just do business within the country.

And these smaller businesses don’t have a chance to take advantage of all the opportunities that come with being part of the global economy.

Creating an environment that helps domestic businesses thrive while still prioritizing foreign investment and trade is a major goal.

Boosting the productivity of local companies would let them become part of global value chains. Plus, getting more women into the workforce would help turn things around.

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The OECD also noted that weak competition leads to higher prices for consumers and businesses alike. To this end, the OECD concluded that basic goods and services tend to be more expensive in Costa Rica than in nearby countries.


In Costa Rica, people work long hours but don’t get much done. Data from the OECD shows that it’s one of the least productive countries in the world – ranking fifth from the bottom!

OECD figures, some countries are included and not all of the 38 members:

  • Mexico:  2,128 (Hours worked per year), 17.9 (Productivity measured in thousands of dollars per capita per year)
  • Costa Rica: 2,073, 19.4
  • Chile: 1,916, 23.4
  • South Korea: 1,910, 44.1
  • United States: 1,791,  61.5
  • OECD average: 1,716, 45.4
  • Australia: 1,694, 49.9
  • France: 1,490, 42.1
  • Germany: 1,349, 49.5
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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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