San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Business pulse

Costa Rica businesses want more moderately-skilled workers

Costa Rica firms have a better outlook on their near future than they did last year, according to a new business survey, the second to be released this week.

More than 30 percent of employers said they plan to increase their staff over the next quarter, according to the most recent, quarterly survey conducted by the Costa Rican Union of Private Sector Chambers and Associations (UCCAEP). That’s an improvement over the average 20 percent recorded in 2015.

Most employers said they expect to maintain their current staff during the first three months of 2016, while 8 percent said they plan to reduce staff.

The survey yielded generally more positive results than one released Tuesday by consultant company Manpower, which found that 22 percent of employers in Costa Rica plan to hire new staff during the first quarter of 2016.

The chamber survey suggests that moderately skilled workers have the best hiring prospects. Forty percent of employers said they plan to hire semi-professional staffers. Another 23 percent of recruiters will be looking for technical staff, 21 percent for professionals and 15 percent for unskilled workers.

UCCAEP President Ronald Jiménez said the results “once again demonstrate the need for the country to train more semi-professional and technical workers as they are currently the most required by private-sector companies.”

Among those planning to lay off employees, 42 percent said they mostly will let go of unskilled workers.

The chamber’s research also found that business confidence remained low throughout the year. Low confidence levels mainly are reflecting in investment intentions. More than half of employers said they do not expect to invest in infrastructure or equipment in the coming year.

Jiménez said these figures indicate a serious vulnerability for the sector as negative expectations likely will affect job creation throughout the year. He said business leaders will continue to pitch the government on ideas for reducing unemployment, which he said currently affects more than 200,000 people.

Jiménez said Costa Rica needs more economic growth and job creation, but noted that “there are other factors such as high electricity rates, excessive red tape, poor infrastructure and others that are limiting improvement in the country’s competitiveness.”

UCCAEP conducted its survey among 464 CEOs, general or financial managers during the first three weeks of October. The study has a margin of error of 5.6 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent.

Contact L. Arias at

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Ken Morris

It’s refreshingly candid of UCCAEP to admit that businesses don’t want highly skilled employees, but instead mainly want “semi-professionals” (I would gather high school graduates or thereabouts who know how to dress and comport themselves but don’t have any special competencies or expect high wages) and secondarily technical workers (roughly the same as the “semi-professionals,” albeit with a little experience in IT, welding, electronics, etc.). It is actually far more often the case in job markets that employers want teachable, smiling, deferential grunts more than they do accomplished employees, even though the usual rhetoric is invariably about the importance of a well-trained workforce.

The risk here though is that the tail ends up wagging the dog. To extrapolate from businesses’ current hiring plans, as UCCAEP President Ronald Jiménez does, to the conclusion that “the country [needs] to train more semi-professional and technical workers,” is to sacrifice the future for the present. As usual, it is also a not too thinly veiled call for government to tailor public education to the demands of existing businesses, even if that tailoring amounts to locking in mediocrity instead of encouraging advancement.

Jiménez has yet to strike me as a farsighted fellow, but at least in this instance he’s an honest one. He just flat out says that his current business constituents don’t even want accomplished employees, only mediocre ones.

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