San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Paying students to stay in school receives high marks from UN’s labor agency


The International Labor Organization recently praised an initiative in Costa Rica that pays children to stay in school.
Avancemos, which began under the Oscar Arias administration with the goal of curtailing a mounting dropout rate, has reached over 141,000 kids, offering scholarships between ¢15,000 and ¢50,000 ($25-$85 per month) for solely showing up for class.
Calling it an effective strategy to reduce poverty and ensure the high quality of the future workforce, a recent report of the ILO said, “This program, designed and implemented prior to the crisis, not only addresses an economic need in an appropriate way, but it’s a long term strategy to improve the quality of the workforce.”
The report by ILO, a United Nation’s agency, was published as part of a series of studies termed “Observing the Crisis,” meant to disseminate innovative ideas in improving employment and income in the economic downturn.


According to the ILO, the number of young people in the workforce dropped from 11 percent in 2006 to 8.7 percent in 2008. Additionally, the report credited Avancemos, or “Let’s Get Ahead,” with contributing to the decline in poverty by 1.7 percentage points (and a 2 percent decline in extreme poverty).
“(The program) is a vision that is part of the social policies of the National Development Plan. President Oscar Arias insisted (on the creation of Avancemos) and has succeeded in increasing enrolment in secondary education between 2006 and 2009,” said José Antonio Li Piñar, chairman of Avancemos’ parent program Mixed Institute for Social Aid (IMAS), in a statement.


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