San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Business confidence still low in Costa Rica

Wariness about the country’s employment and economic situation caused a slight decline in confidence among business sector leaders during the first quarter of this year, according to a recent survey.

The Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce (CCCR) released results Wednesday of its Business Confidence Index, which measures perceptions quarterly on four variables: economy, employment, sales and the business situation.

The index this time recorded the minimum level considered “confident,” a decrease over the previous quarter.

Concerns about the country’s employment and economy knocked down the confidence score.

Businesses also expressed a cautious hiring outlook for the upcoming quarter, with 14 percent of employers surveyed saying they are considering reducing their staff in the next three months.

Chamber President Yolanda Fernández Ochoa described the low confidence level in employment as extremely worrisome, mostly because “that variable has failed to surpass the minimum confidence level for 19 consecutive quarters.”

The CCCR’s survey found that the number of companies planning to hire decreased from the previous quarter, from 21 to 19 percent. Most employers — 67 percent — said they plan to maintain their current staffing levels.

Despite the lukewarm confidence looking outward, those surveyed expressed strong confidence in their own firms’ sales and performance.

The Chamber took the opportunity to ask the government to refrain from promoting the approval of new taxes, saying it “would further affect the private sector’s confidence as well as hiring and investment expectations.”

The chamber surveyed CEOs, CFOs and other managers at 700 companies from March 16-31. The study has a margin of error of 3 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent.

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I think Costa Rica would benefit greatly from a public re-education program to improve work ethic. Thats the greatest problem I see in CR as a business owner. Work ethic of ticos is horrendous. The socialism here has created an atmosphere of “entitlement” where the people think they are entitled to everything by default. You see it even more so clearly in the government work sector. You see it all the way up in the global politics when the country feels “richer countries should pay for environmental cleanup”. Its the same mentality when they make RIDICULOUS laws about “luxury house tax” – again, thinking those with money should just give it all to those without. Then you stack “Pura Vida” on top of it which has no room for ‘work’ in it, and you end up with a very lazy culture that feels everything should be handed to them.

I don’t have wealth because it was handed to me. I create my own wealth. I’ve come from nothing to everything, on my own will power and ability to work hard. I love ‘Pura Vida’ but for me, life without work is meaningless. Work is a part of ‘Pure Life’ – it is a reflection of who you are and what you can create and accomplish. This country doesn’t have a sense of that at all. Sure there are a few diamonds in the rough, but by vast majority, well…. just look what happens on Semana Santa… EVERYONE runs to the beach. Like literally, the city is EMPTY. This is all the culture wants to do. While there’s something about that that one can appreciate, it wouldn’t hurt to add ‘work integrity’ to “Pura Vida”.

And you better believe this is a large part of the lack of business confidence in this country, but no company would ever step out and say it directly, as for fear of the “insult” damaging their brand. Combine poor work ethic with over-priced unstable electricity and an expensive broken CAJA system (that by its nature of PERCENT keeps the people’s salaries low) and Singapore looks a lot more friendly.

Meanwhile, the idiots running the country think “more taxes” is the solution! I’m sorry, but every small country that has ever gotten wealthy has followed the principal of LESS taxation. Where there is LESS taxation, MORE money flows. I’d rather have 1% of 1,000,000 than 10% of 10,000.

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Ken Morris

Please restrain yourself from posting baseless prejudices about Ticos.

Employed Ticos work a 48-hour week–not the 40 or fewer hours worked by the lazy Americans–and if you notice, they often show up early to and leave late from their jobs. Many also have long commutes to and from work, often two buses and some walking each way, which can easily result in a work commitment of 60 or more hours a week. Neither can they call in sick. If they’re sick, they must first go to a doctor. And they do this for an average of less than a third the Americans earn for cushier conditions.

The Caja is also mostly a bargain–and believe it or not, some Ticos work in part for the coverage it provides. The typical employee pays around $50 – $75 a month for full medical coverage. Try finding health coverage at this price in the US. You won’t. There equivalent coverage would easily cost ten times as much. Plus, the Caja offers an old age pension.

More subjectively, being a lazy American I have had ample opportunity to observe the “work ethic” of one group of Tico employees, the bartenders, and have marveled over their competence. Bars that in the US would have to hire two or three bartenders to handle all the customers get by with only one bartender in Costa Rica. As a former bartender myself, I’m amazed by how well a sole Tico bartender can handle as much work as they do.

Finally, I’m always puzzled by what Americans mean by the “work ethic.” The concept was coined by Max Weber in his “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” to refer specifically to the religious motivation of the early capitalist to accumulate profits without spending them on themselves but rather reinvesting them into their business. The concept doesn’t really have much to do with dependent employees busting ass in their jobs, although Weber did speculate that Catholics might be more subservient employees than the members of some Protestant denominations.

The clincher though is that this was a historical argument purporting to explain the rise of capitalism, and writing over a century ago Weber concluded that the original “work ethic” had already died out. All we were left with, he mused, was a system of “mechanized petrification” in which everybody continues to work for no reason other than that the system irrationally demands it. Given this, it’s always strange for me to hear people praising the “work ethic” as if it exists and as if it is good.

Though it makes sense when you realize that most of those harping on the “work ethic” are bosses who just want their employees to work harder for them.

But I’m here to tell you, Ticos work pretty darn hard–work ethic or not.

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Perhaps there are different experiences in different classes of labor, maybe even different areas of Costa Rica. But my comments are not baseless, and not actually prejudice either, I love tico culture for many reasons. This is also not a comparison of tico vs gringo – as I wouldn’t have my business in USA either, I’d have plenty to say about them as well.

I speak from experience of hiring skilled workers here, from talking with my associates and friends who also have the same experience in a varying industries, AND from talking directly with my tico friends (whom all agree).

Its hard to keep a tico on the job, they jump jobs very quickly. They’ll also quit jobs quickly, because of the family support system (which is great), they don’t have the same NEED to keep their income stream.

The ticos I’ve spoken to about this range from friends to even employees. My longest standing employees fully agree with my assessment of tico work ethic, in fact, they’ve even helped me refine the view by giving me deeper insight into the culture.

Its not an insult, its a fact. And at the core of it is really their socialist entitlement. We’re all entitled to a good, happy, peaceful life – but that doesn’t mean someone should just hand it to you – you have to create it yourself! And you should WANT to! We simply don’t respect whats handed to us as humans, true appreciation comes from CREATING what you want.

So how do I define “work ethic”? Certainly not “work harder” as you suggest. I define a good “work ethic” by an individual having a passion for their work… a desire to excel and achieve more, reach higher, know that their destiny is in their own hands. Thats work ethic.

As far as how my tico friends have explained it to me, its due to the fact that parents really don’t raise their kids with those values, they raise with love and infinite support, but lack the “hard love” that can help a child realize their future is in their own hands. This is why many ‘children’ still live at home well into their 30s! When they crash their life, they can always go home.

I’m a bit split on that philosophy internally. I can appreciate the family support this country has, but i was raised on more hard-love. There came a time where I had to clean up my own messes, and my parents wouldn’t cover me when I blew things up. While I might not have appreciated it at the time, I value it completely right now. I know the positive impact it had on my life, and I also know how hard it was for my parents.

So … work hard? No, work smart. Have a passion for your work. Doesn’t matter what kind of work. At one point in my life, I worked at subway. I LOVED IT! I really got into making the most amazing sandwiches anyone has ever had. The town figured it out, and I’d even have lines of people waiting for ME to make their sandwich instead of the 2nd person on duty. When I cleaned a floor, I got every millimeter of it spotless, and I *enjoyed* it too!

That is work ethic. And admittedly, it is not abundant anywhere in the world, but you will see it far more in other countries than you will in CR. Public education & marketing campaigns can help turn that around. I think if the tico culture learned to include their life work in ‘Pura Vida’ philosophy, they’d thrive far better.

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Timeless wisdom in contrast somewhat to my previous comments…

“If its free and given to us for nothing we place little value on [it]… things that we pay money for, we value. The paradox is that exactly the reverse is true. Everything worthwhile in life came to us free, our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country, all these priceless possessions are free. But the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time. A good man can be completely wiped out and make another fortune, he can do that several times, even if a home burns down we can rebuild it, but the things we got for nothing, we can never replace.”

– Earl Nightingale (1921-1989)

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Charles House

It took over 2 months for our local municipalidad to consider and approve our application for a building permit. One month after the College of Engineers and Architects approved the plans. Six workers sat idle and materials were not purchased because of the delay.

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Just maybe if you had greased even lightly a palm or two, that process might have zipped right on through the bureaucracy…who knows….

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