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The myths and truths about Nicaraugan migrants in Costa Rica

Rico’s TICO BULL – While the myth that “we are all rich” applies to foreigners from North America and Europe, when it comes to Nicaraguans, the false information is linked to old urban myths that prevail in the Costa Rican imaginary.

In Costa Rica, Nicaraguans often work in agriculture, construction and service sectors

These myths on Nicaraguan migrants include, “They don’t pay the Caja; They receive more social benefits than Ticos;  They get free housing. They take jobs away; They do not contribute to the local economy; and are uneducated,” among many others.

Read more: The rise of anti-immigrant attitudes, violence and nationalism in Costa Rica 

Let’s look at some of the myths.  How much of this is true and how much is false?

MYTH: MIGRANTS DO NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE LOCAL ECONOMY

Truth: According to the study “How immigrants contribute to the economy of developing countries, OECD 2018”, which you can consult by clicking on this link, the contribution of immigrants to the national economy represents around 12% of added value.

According to the report, in Costa Rica a greater proportion of nationals tend to be employers, if they live in a region where the number of immigrants is high.

The study details that a greater integration of the migrant population, improving access to public services and the labor market, can even improve their economic contribution to the country.

Even so, it is considered that the contribution is still limited, although its presence does not affect the salaries of Costa Ricans.

MYTH: MIGRANTS TAKE AWAY WORK FROM COSTA RICANS

Truth: The diagnosis of “Contexto Migratorio Costa Rica 2017(Migratory Context Costa Rica 2017) reveals that 82% of Nicaraguans in Costa Rica are employed and only 4% in open unemployment, the rest is outside the labor force.

Of these there are 12.8% who work for their own account and 2% who are employers. Seven out of ten are salaried employees of some company or institution and 15% of some private (domestic) household.

According to the study in the area of ​​private employment, the main areas of work are in agriculture, industry and construction and are due, in particular, to differences in the educational level of those that “come to Costa Rica to occupy low-skilled and low-paid jobs.”

The report on the contribution of migrants to the country’s economy says that although there is a lower rate of employment in nationals and a parallel growth in foreign employment “it is possible that they complement the labor force born in the country”; that is, they occupy jobs not wanted by nationals.

For example, the case of domestic workers: as large numbers of women from Nicaragua work in domestic work in the country. The same applies to construction and other ‘hard’ and ‘dirty’ jobs Costa Ricans are not willing to do.

Or picking coffee during the harvesting seasons!

MYTH: THE MAJORITY OF VIOLENCE IS COMMITTED BY FOREIGNERS

Truth: The information available on crime in the region and its increase since the 1980s indicates that the rising trends in the case of Costa Rica is not different from those of the generality of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The acts of delinquency are varied and can range from theft or petty theft to major criminal acts such as homicide.

In the case of homicides, it is known that the main element of coincidence over nationality is that the victim and the perpetrator knew each other, which delegitimizes any difference over nationalities. Only 37% of cases occur among unknown persons, according to the State of the Nation. The latter mostly have to do with robberies or assaults and to a lesser extent by hired killers or commission.

In the last two decades, the average number of homicides committed by foreigners has oscillated between 10% and 20%.

Regarding the fight against drug trafficking, the figures are the majority in the case of Costa Ricans. In the 2014-2018 period, the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica (MSP) detained 1,953 people, of which around 25% – 494 – were foreigners.

MYTH: THE JAILS ARE FULL OF FOREIGNERS

Truth: The majority of people convicted with imprisonment come from population groups living in poverty according to the latest State of Justice Report.

In general terms, prisoners are composed mainly of men and especially Costa Ricans (87%). According to data from immigration, the 13% made up of different nationalities, are:

  • 65% Nicaraguans
  • 12% Colombian
  • 5% Panamanians
  • 3% Mexican

The majority of foreigner prisoners correspond to illegal migrants and very few, less than 1%, to refugees.

MYTH: A MAJOR PART OF SOCIAL ASSISTANCE GOES TO FOREIGNERS

Truth: By 2006, a total of 205,972 Costa Ricans had received aid from the Avancemos programs, received money, support from the care network or another community home and other centralized aid through the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social (IMAS).

In contrast, a much smaller percentage of Nicaraguans received the same assistance.

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MYTH: FOREIGNERS DO NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE SOCIAL SECURITY (CCSS)

Truth: Costa Ricans contribute more on average per person to Social Security than foreigners; This is explained because they have greater purchasing power and are better positioned in the income quintiles than the average of immigrants. The average per capita of Costa Rican citizens is ¢462,867

Even so, immigrants also contribute an average of ¢337,961 per capita.

According to the OECD report, the level of participation in social security by Costa Ricans is 68% and that of foreigners 50%.

MYTH: ALL NICARAGUANS ARE UNEDUCATED

Truth: The different reports and studies carried out in this regard agree that it is true that a significant percentage of the Nicaraguan population in the country has lower academic levels than the average for nationals; however, it is false that everyone lacks some type of academic training.

Of the Nicaraguan population taken into account in the study Diagnóstico del Contexto Migratorio Costa Rica 2017, 6.7% of them had higher or university education, 1.2% technical education, and 9.45 completed secondary education or high school.

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