About Costa Rica – Statistics and Highlights

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So what is there to know about Costa Rica, what are the facts and highlights of this beautiful country?

To start off, Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and maritime border with Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island.

It has a population of around 5.5 million in a land area of 51,060 km2 (19,710 sq mi). An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José, with around two million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

It is known for its long-standing and stable democracy, for having NO standing army since 1948 and for its highly educated workforce. The country spends roughly 14% of its budget (2019) on education, compared to a global average of 7.9%, and has established education to be free and mandatory for boys and girls since 1870.

Its economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, corporate services for foreign companies, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. A great deal of top level foreign manufacturing and services companies like Intel, Amazon, Microsoft and many others, operate in Costa Rica’s Free Trade Zones (FTZ), where they benefit from investment and tax incentives.

Essential Costa Rica – Overview of our country and our people

Human Development Index (HDI)

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living. Costa Rica’s 2019 HDI score was 0.810 – according to the 2020 Human Development Report, placing it for the first time at the top tier of very high human developed countries.

Human Development Index (HDI)

Happy Planet Index (HPI)

The Happy Planet Index measures what matters: sustainable wellbeing for all. It tells us how well nations are doing at achieving long, happy, sustainable lives. And Costa Rica has been the leading country worldwide of the HPI since 2006, with a 62.1 score in the latest report on 2019.

Happy Planet Index

Economy

The country has been considered economically stable with moderate inflation, estimated at 2.6% in 2017, and moderately high growth in GDP, which increased from US$41.3 billion in 2011 to US$64.28 billion in 2021, with an estimated GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) is Intl$18,486. 

For the region, its unemployment level is moderately high (13.7% in 2021, according to the World Bank). Although 20.5% of the population lives below the poverty line (2017), Costa Rica has one of the highest standards of living in Latin America.

Trade and foreign investment

Costa Rica has free trade agreements with many countries, including the US. There are no significant trade barriers that would affect imports and the country has been lowering its tariffs by other Central American countries. 

Countries (in blue) which have signed Free Trade Agreements with Costa Rica

The country’s Free Trade Zones provide investment and tax incentives for manufacturing and service industries to operate in Costa Rica. In 2021, the zones supported over 180 thousand direct and indirect jobs and average wages in the FTZ were 1.8 times greater than the average for private enterprise work in the rest of the country.

Over half of the companies that operate in Costa Rica’s FTZ come from the U.S. and they include organizations such as Intel, Amazon, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Oracle, VMWare, Accenture, Starbucks, Bayer, Roche, GSK, Astra Zeneca, P&G, EY, Citi Group, Bosch, Boston Scientific, Abbott, Baxter, Philips, Bridgestone, Kimberly Clark, DHL, IBM, 3M, Emerson, Panduit among many others.

Of the GDP, 4.7% is generated by agriculture, 19.7% by industry and 68.5% by services (2020 Statista Report). Agriculture activities employ 12.0% of the labor force, industrial activities 18.8% and services activities 69.2% (2019 Statista Report). 

Inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Performance Index

Costa Rica is also the leading country in the Investment Monitor’s 2022 Inward FDI Performance Index, which measures a country’s inward investment levels against its gross domestic product (GDP). This means that Costa Rica, with a score of 13.4, received more than 13 times its fair share of inward greenfield foreign direct investment (FDI) compared with what could be expected given its level of GDP.

Inward FDI Performance score

Health Care

Costa Rica invests 9.9% of GDP in Health, allowing it to provide high-quality health by the government at a low cost to the users.

The healthcare system in Costa Rica is frequently cited as one of the best in the world. The country is ranked 36th in the world by the World Health Organization, above the United States, Cuba, and New Zealand. Meanwhile, the United Nations places healthcare in Costa Rica within the top 20 in the world.

Education

Costa Rica is recognized in Latin America for the quality of its educational system. It has a literacy rate of 97%, one of the highest in Latin America. General Basic Education is mandatory and free for boys and girls since 1870. 

Costa Rica commits 7.4% of GDP in Education which accumulates to 14% of total government expenditure to elementary, high school and post-high school education. This is nearly double the average 7.9% of OECD countries (Source: OECD, 2019).

Environment

Costa Rica has long punched above its weight as a global green pioneer with a strong social conscience, but now the Central American nation is preparing to cross the ultimate environmental frontier with a detailed plan to decarbonize its economy by 2050.

Many countries have promised to do the same—reducing emissions is a key commitment of signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement—but according the UN Environment Programme, Costa Rica is one of the first to turn pledges into solid policies and to frame the shift in terms of economic and social benefit.

Costa Rica’s environmental credentials are impressive:

  • More than 98% of its energy is produced from renewable sources.
  • It holds about 5% of the planet’s total biodiversity.
  • 25% of its land is protected with national parks and reserves.
  • Forest cover now stands at more than 53% after painstaking work to reverse decades of deforestation.

Over the last decade, Costa Rica has made the top 10 environmental sustainability country list created by the World Energy Council

And in 2019, in recognition of its decades-long commitment to ambitious policies to combat climate change and protect the planet’s natural resources, leading successful sustainable practices and setting an example for other nations, Costa Rica was awarded the United Nations Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honor.

Tourism

Costa Rica is the most-visited nation in the Central American region, with 2.9 million foreign visitors in 2016, up 10% from 2015. In 2015, the tourism sector was responsible for 5.8% of the country’s GDP, or $3.4 billion. In 2016, the highest number of tourists came from the United States, with 1,000,000 visitors, followed by Europe with 434,884 arrivals.

By 2004, tourism was generating more revenue and foreign exchange than bananas and coffee combined. In 2016, the World Travel & Tourism Council’s estimates indicated a direct contribution to the GDP of 5.1% and 110,000 direct jobs in Costa Rica; the total number of jobs indirectly supported by tourism was 271,000.

A pioneer of ecotourism, Costa Rica draws many tourists to its extensive series of national parks and other protected areas. In the 2019 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Costa Rica ranked 41st in the world and third among Latin American countries after Mexico and Panama. The Ethical Traveler group’s ten countries on their 2021 list of The World’s Ten Best Ethical Destinations includes Costa Rica. The country scored highest in environmental protection among the winners. Costa Rica began reversing deforestation in the 1990s, and they are moving towards using only renewable energy.

If you’re interested in visiting our country, make sure to check out my personal recommendations of places to visit:

Top 10 places to visit in Costa Rica

If you’re coming to Costa Rica, these recommendations will take you to my personal best picks of this awesome, beautiful, tropical country.

All of the countries achievements mentioned in this post, have enabled Costa Rica to become the newest member of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), organization that brings together elite countries and a range of partners that collaborate on key global issues at national, regional and local levels.

Looking to invest or outsource services in Costa Rica?

If you’re looking to setup your business in Costa Rica or hire local talent to scale your organization with highly qualified talent, you wouldn’t be the first. A great deal of World Class Organizations have thought the same and have successfully established solid operations and relationships in our country. Find out why these organizations have found a sweet spot to drive sustainable productivity.

Its economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, corporate services for foreign companies, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. A great deal of top level foreign manufacturing and services companies like Intel, Amazon, Microsoft and many others, operate in Costa Rica’s Free Trade Zones (FTZ), where they benefit from investment and tax incentives.

Essential Costa Rica – Talented by Nature

Source: World Economic Forum – The Global Competitiveness Report, 2019

To further understand what can be possible for your organization, there are 2 organizations that can asses you and provide all the details of what it takes for you to start working in Costa Rica. If you’re looking to invest and start operations in our country, contact CINDE – The Investment Promotion Agency of Costa Rica. And if you’re looking to buy products or contract services, contact PROCOMER – The Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter.

Both of these organizations provide a World Class Level service. They are fast, efficient, knowledgable, friendly and will not cost you a dollar, as all their services are free of any charge. I guarantee that you will be happily surprised with the support they will provide!

Now, if you’ve found this post useful, please share it with anyone looking to invest, outsource or visit our country and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me as I love to support people considering doing business in our country.

Finally, thank you for your interest in Costa Rica, looking forward to create a World that Works for Everyone Together. Pura Vida!

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