Last Updated: Apr 27, 2012
Wages in Costa Rica are much lower than in North America or Europe. Despite a comparatively lower cost of living, nominal salaries are common in many job sectors for non-skilled or semi-skilled workers. The average Costa Rican earns between $500 and $800 a month. To compensate for such wages, the government grants employees rights to special benefits. Below are minimum hourly wage estimates based on the exchange rate of 507.85 CRC per U.S. Dollar. Minimum wages are revised every six months by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Labor.
- Non-Qualified Worker: $2.24
- Qualified Worker: $2.54
- High School Level Technician: $2.73
- Specialized Worker: $2.93
- College Graduate Technician: $3.37
- Bachelor Degree Holder: $4.13
- Master Degree Holder: $4.95
Working days in Costa Rica are classified into day shifts and night shifts. These are the maximum number of hours employees may work during a normal work week:
- Day Shift: From 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; 8 hours per day; 48 hours per week.
- Night Shift: From 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.; 6 hours per day; 36 hours per week.
- Mixed Shift: Schedule includes day and night hours between noon and 10:30 p.m., or hours between 1.30 a.m. and noon; 7 hours per day; 42 hours per week.
A 45-minute break for lunch and two additional 15-minute breaks are permitted during work hours. The law allows domestic help to work up to ten hours per day and eight hours at night, with no more than 48 or 36 hours weekly, respectively. All workers are entitled to a one-hour break per eight hours of work. Employees aged 15-18 may work no more than six hours per day and a total of 36 hours per week.
Overtime & Christmas Bonus
Overtime is paid at time and a half, or the hourly wage plus an additional 50%; employers may require no more than four hours of overtime, for a total of twelve working hours per day. In Costa Rica, every employee is entitled to a Christmas bonus, known as an aguinaldo. The bonus is equivalent to one month’s salary, and must be paid within the first twenty days of December.
The Social Security system, known as the Caja, provides employees with free health care, sick leave, disability pensions and retirement benefits. It is mandatory for all employers to register employees with the Caja. Total contributions amount to roughly 34.5% of the salary by employers, and 9.5% by employees.
Costa Rica’s labor laws stipulate that pregnant women are given one month of paid maternity leave before the birth of her child, and three months after the birth of her child. The employer is required to pay 50% of the salary for all four months of leave, and the Social Security Administration pays the remaining half.
Employees are entitled to two weeks of vacation for every 50 weeks of employment. Vacation days may not include weekends or paid holidays, they must be regular working days. If an employee’s contract is terminated and he or she has not yet used the earned vacation time, the employer must pay the equivalent of one day’s salary for each month worked during the year.
Employees cannot be forced to work national holidays. If an employee agrees to work a holiday, they are entitled to double their normal salary. The following dates are paid national holidays:
- January 1 (New Years Day)
- April 11 (Juan Santamaria Day)
- Holy Thursday and Friday (Easter Week)
- May 1 (Labor Day)
- July 25 (Annexation of Guanacaste Day)
- August 15 (Mother’s Day)
- September 15 (Independence Day)
- December 25 (Christmas)
Unpaid national holidays:
- August 2 (Virgin of Los Angeles Day)
- October 12 (Culture Day)
Salaried employees are also paid for the August 2 and October 12 holidays, but wage-earners are not.
Employees that are fired or laid off without cause are entitled to severance pay, which is paid on the last day of employment. A worker who is fired with just cause is paid only his or her acquired vacation days and Christmas bonus portion earned that year. Workers laid off without cause by the employer are entitled to further remuneration. For employees that have worked for a period of three to six months, they are entitled to the equivalent of one week's wages. Six months to one year equals fourteen days of wages, and one year of employment of more entitles them to 20 days of wages.
If an employee’s labor rights have been violated, they may take up the dispute with the Inspeccion Nacional de Trabajo, or National Work Inspection. Employers may be sued in the case of child labor and non-payment of wages, among other reasons.
Costa Rica law requires employees to pay taxes on income earned within Costa Rica. The fiscal tax year ends on October 31, and taxes must be filed by December 15. The income tax is graduated, so that those who earn more are placed into a higher tax bracket.
- Up to $5,418 USD: not subject to income tax
- Between $5,418 and $8,090 USD: 10% tax
- Between $8,090 and $13,497 USD: 15% tax
- Between $13,497 and $27,047 USD: 20% tax
- More than $27,047 USD: 25% tax