Table of Contents

  • Costa Rica is characterised by both immigration and emigration flows. Economic growth, high living standards and political stability has attracted immigrants from neighbouring countries, and Costa Rica stands out in the region for being a net immigration country. Immigrants, particularly from Nicaragua, constitute close to 9% of the population, and an even higher share of the workforce. At the same time, emigration flows have also been on the rise in the past decades. An estimated 130 000 Costa Ricans live abroad, mainly in the United States.

  • (Numbers in parentheses refer to the OECD average)

  • Immigration is a significant feature in Costa Rica, with immigrants constituting 9% of the population and an even larger share of the labour force. At the same time, emigration has also been on the rise in recent decades. Together, these migration flows offers substantial potential for development. Costa Rica’s national development policy is increasingly emphasising the importance of migrant integration and the nexus between migration and development. However, migration’s development potential is not yet fully reflected in the policy framework. The Interrelations between Public Policies, Migration and Development (IPPMD) project – managed by the OECD Development Centre and co-financed by the European Union – was conceived to enable Costa Rica to maximise this potential. It explores:

  • Costa Rica has recently started seeing the potential of migration for development. However, there are still opportunities being missed to harness the full development potential embodied in its significant rates of emigration and immigration. The Interrelations between Public Policies, Migration and Development (IPPMD) project was conducted in Costa Rica between 2013 and 2017 to explore, through both quantitative and qualitative analysis, the two-way relationship between migration and public policies in five key sectors: the labour market, agriculture, education, investment and financial services, and social protection and health. This chapter provides an overview of the project’s findings for Costa Rica, highlighting the potential for migration in many of its dimensions (emigration, immigration, remittances and return migration) to boost development, and analysing the sectoral policies that will allow this to happen.

  • Economic growth and high living standards have attracted immigrants from countries in the region, making Costa Rica a net immigration country in a region characterised by emigration. Immigrants constitute 8.8% of the population, and an even higher share of the labour force. At the same time, emigration has also been on the rise since the 1990s, with about 130 000 Costa Ricans living abroad, mainly in the United States. This chapter paints a broad picture of the Costa Rican migration landscape, drawing from the literature, censuses and surveys. It gives a brief overview of the country’s history of migration and current trends: its drivers, who the immigrants and emigrants are and where they have gone. Finally, it lays out the legal, policy and institutional framework relevant to migration.

  • In order to provide an empirical foundation to the analysis of the links between migration and policy, the Interrelations between Public Policies, Migration and Development (IPPMD) project used three evidence-gathering tools: household surveys, community surveys, and interviews with representatives of public, private, non-government and international institutions to provide additional qualitative information about the migration context in Costa Rica.This chapter explains how the sampling framework was designed and implemented, as well as the statistical approaches used in this report to analyse the link between key policy sectors and emigration, immigration, return migration and remittances. The chapter also includes descriptive statistics drawn from the survey data. It outlines some key characteristics of the migrants in the sample as well as some background on immigration, emigration, remittances and return migration.

  • Despite being a country of net immigration, Costa Rica has also experienced significant emigration. These inflows and outflows are likely to have an impact on Costa Rica’s economy and society. Yet the links among the various dimensions of migration and development are not well explored. This chapter uses data from the IPPMD surveys to untangle some of the complex links between emigration, remittances, return migration and immigration and five key development sectors: the labour market, agriculture, education, investment and financial services, and social protection and health.

  • Sectoral policies in key areas for development, such as the labour market, agriculture, education, financial services and investment and social protection and health can affect migration decisions, and enhance – or decrease – the positive impacts of migration on development. The IPPMD household and community surveys incorporated a wide set of policy programmes in five key sectors to identify links between sectoral policies and migration. This chapter reports on analysis of the ways in which policy programmes in these sectors in Costa Rica influence people’s decision to emigrate, immigrate, return and to send remittances.