San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Poverty, Unemployment Dropped, Survey Says

This year’s Household Survey by the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC) shows a slight drop in poverty and unemployment, but an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor.

Study coordinator Elizabeth Solano, who presented the results Tuesday in San Pedro, east of San José, said poverty decreased from 21.2% in 2005 to 20.2% this year; extreme poverty decreased from 5.6% to 5.3%.

Pollsters surveyed 14,214 homes throughout the country from July 10 to Aug. 9. A home in a state of poverty is defined as one where the per-capita monthly income is lower than the poverty line, or the amount of money necessary to meet a person’s basic needs, including food, clothing, health care, education and housing. (This year, that amount was ¢47,086, or approximately $91, for urban areas, and ¢37,907, or approximately $73, for rural areas).

Homes considered to be in “extreme poverty” are those where per-capita monthly income is lower than the price of the basic food basket, a collection of 24 foods deemed a minimum for basic nutrition  (approximately $37 in rural areas, $42 inurban areas) – in other words, a home where people can’t even feed themselves adequately, Solano explained.

Average per-capita monthly income in Costa Rica increased this year from ¢94,716 ($183) to ¢98,404 ($191), Solano said.

However, a continuing growth in the gap between rich and poor fueled this increase.

The per-capita income of Costa Rica’s richest 20% increased 8.6%, while the income of the poorest 20% increased only 0.1%, according to the study.

Unemployment decreased from 2005-2006 as well, from 6.6% to 6.0%. Again, this improvement was not distributed evenly throughout the country. Although unemployment dropped in both urban and rural areas throughout the country, with significant reductions in the Central Pacific and the Northern Zone, underemployment –that is, the rate of people who want to work full-time but can only find jobs for fewer than 47 hours per week, or who make less than minimum wage – increased in the Central Valley and the northern Caribbean region.


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