SAN JOSE – Thirty percent of workers in Costa Rica’s private sector receive less than the legal minimum wage, a situation President Laura Chinchilla described as a “distressing calamity” in announcing a drive to guarantee decent wages.
The National Minimum Wage Campaign, unveiled Monday by the president and Labor Minister Sandra Piszk, plans to double inspections of companies while creating a Web site and a telephone number to provide information and advice to workers.
Data from the 2009 Household Survey indicate that 30 percent of workers in the private sector – some 308,000 people – receive less than the minimum wage.
Most of the underpaid workers are farm and construction laborers, domestics and sales personnel in stores. Around 57 percent of them are under 35, 59 percent did not graduate from high school and 62.7 percent are men.
The lowest legal wage in Costa Rica is $12 a day, the amount “unskilled” workers are paid.
Chinchilla said that failure to pay the minimum wage affects “too many people to assure a satisfactory coexistence in our country,” adding that if the requirement were complied with, poverty would be reduced “significantly.”
The president promised that her government will seek the “full application” of sanctions to “assure a rigorous compliance with labor laws” so that “wages will guarantee a decent life.”
Piszk said that with the National Minimum Wage Campaign the government hopes to raise from 8,600 to 15,000 the number of workplace inspections in companies per year, carried out by 102 specialized inspectors with the priority of guaranteeing that minimum wages are paid.
It will also create a database that will allow a better follow-up of companies that have been inspected. EFE