Despite being a small country, Costa Rica tops the world in several important categories; it is considered the “greenest“ country on the planet, is number one on the World Happiness Index, and has one the most qualified labor forces in the region.
No matter the party in power, Costa Rica has a constitutional requirement that 8% of its budget be spent on education. Since 1970, it has invested 28% of its budget on just that. This is the main reason why Costa Rica has had such high levels of human capital for so many years.
Access to high-quality formal education is what makes Costa Rica strong and has made it the success story of Central America, combining high and sustained economic growth and strong social cohesion. However, about half of Costa Rican workers who do not complete their secondary education can only access low-quality jobs, while unemployment, according to the National Institute of Statistic and Census (INEC), affects 9.4% of the population and less than half of women of working age are active in the labor market.
Human capital and social protection policies are key to supporting the development of a strong supply of skilled labor and are therefore complementary to macroeconomic, commercial, and investment climate policies that encourage investment, innovation, and competitiveness.
How can the Costa Rican economy generate more top-quality jobs? Many analyses indicate that public policies should be directed at increasing the skills of the population. Despite all the educational achievements of the country in recent decades, a large fraction of its population has yet to finish secondary education.
While it is true that the country is moving in the right direction, there is still a great deal that must be done. This is the case of technical specialists. There is a shortage of engineers and technicians, which slows down socioeconomic development and allays the arrival of new international companies.
Institutions such as the MEP, INA, and TEC universities, which specialize in technical training, have in recent years launched programs to promote these specialties, as well as facilitate access in areas that have fewer resources. An important step is the relationship with the private sector. The Ministry of Education and some educational institutions maintain a constant relationship with multinational companies that need these professionals to develop these educational programs together in line with the needs of the market. This and other factors have caused Costa Rica to fall nine places in the 2016 Human Capital Index, which is published by the World Economic Forum. It is currently seventh in Latin America and 62nd worldwide. Costa Rica accumulated 69.7 points out of a total of 100.