Nicaraguan labor represents 16% of the labor market in Costa Rica and is mainly focused on agriculture, construction, commerce and domestic work, according to a study by the Center for Transdisciplinary Studies of Central America (Cetcam) released this Wednesday. «The greatest impact of Nicaraguan labor in the (Costa Rican) labor market is found in agriculture, construction, domestic work and commerce, representing more than 16% and making them a fundamental factor for the stability of these sectors», said Cetcam, a think tank made up of Central American researchers from different disciplines.
The study highlighted the importance of Nicaraguan labor in Costa Rican agriculture, since this economic activity “represented a quarter of Costa Rica’s exports in 2021, while this sector, together with construction, contributed almost a 9% of the GDP (gross domestic product)” of Costa Rica.
THE DISADVANTAGE OF THE NICARAGUAN MIGRANT
However, according to the study, Nicaraguan migrants are at a disadvantage when integrating into the Costa Rican labor market, “because 81% have incomplete high school and only 6% have some degree of higher education. This limits their chances of getting jobs with an average remuneration”, said Cetcam. He stressed, however, that the children of migrants can raise their educational level as they join the public education system and “will be able to increase their contribution to the economy and Costa Rican society”. Another disadvantage, according to the study, is that “the labor rights of Nicaraguans are less respected than in the case of non-migrant workers”.
THE NICARAGUAN CONTRIBUTION IN COSTA RICA
Nicaraguan migrants in Costa Rica, in addition to economic contributions, also contribute in other ways that are difficult to quantify, such as culture, gastronomy, religious festivities, sports activities, community organization practices, among others, according to the study. For Cetcam, the contribution of Nicaraguan migrants could increase “if their integration process into Costa Rican society were faster, starting with streamlining their immigration status.”
On May 15th, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that Costa Rica “is bearing a disproportionate burden” of Nicaraguans exiled due to the social, political and economic situation in Nicaragua, and noted that they are trying to give more support to the country. Official data indicates that Costa Rica, a country of 5.1 million inhabitants, has 607,000 regularized foreigners, of whom 60% are Nicaraguans. There is an unknown number of migrants without immigration status. Since 2018, when a political and social crisis erupted in Nicaragua, the Costa Rican authorities have received at least 240,000 asylum applications, of which 92% are from Nicaraguans. There are currently some 186,000 asylum cases pending resolution.
Nicaragua has been experiencing a political and social crisis since April 2018, when thousands of Nicaraguans took to the streets to protest controversial social security reforms, which later turned into a demand for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega after responding with armed force.