The Debate Over Foreign Workers

"... Some of the professions reserved for national citizens are chemical engineering and petrochemicals, careers which are not offered by any university in Panama. "

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Acting as a backdrop to the contradiction between migrant's human right to work and the need to reserve jobs for nationals, is the upkeep of competitiveness and economic development of each country.

The change of government in Panama brought a change of concept regarding the levels of openness displayed by the country to make it an attractive destination for labor migration. Facilities to regularize the situation of people who come to fill the positions generated by the booming economy in the canal country are about to vanish, according to a proposal by the new authorities. This is the case of the 'Melting Pot' (Crisol de Razas) fairs, where foreigners have been able to obtain, with relative ease, formal residence permits, events which it is now claimed will not be held again.

An article in reports how the discussion is evolving in Panama, a discussion that could be extrapolated to several countries in the region, and is mainly focussed around the conflicting views of the respective rights of nationals and foreigners.

What is not being fully discussed is the indispensable contribution that migrants make to the economies of the countries that receive them, especially when they resolve the problems of shortcomings in the training of national workers. The knowledge revolution is already well advanced, it is essential to open up economies to foreign workers in order to maintain the competitiveness required in terms of quantity and quality of the human resources needed.

More on this topic

Labor Migration Procedures Too Long

July 2016

International labor mobility as an important factor in business competitiveness is being obstructed in Costa Rica by the inefficiency of the Department of Immigration.


Inefficiency is the right adjective to describe the management of the Department of Immigration and Alien Affairs, where "... there are more than 20,000 cases pending resolution."  

Panama Changes its Immigration Policy

May 2015

It has been announced that there will be an end to liberality in granting residence permits in the so-called melting pot, and the revision of the immigration status of resident foreigners whose papers have expired.

From a statement issued by the Presidency of Panama:

The Government of the Republic of Panama has approved an executive decree establishing immigration controls and regulating the immigration status of foreigners whose extraordinary provisional migratory permits have expired.

Panama: Law Eliminating Melting Pot Halted

February 2015

The government has asked the Assembly to return to the first legislative body a bill which eliminates the immigration fairs and to start discussions to establish a migration code.

At the request of the executive branch, "... The document was dropped from second to first debate, "arguing that it had to go back for review and take into account the considerations of the business sector, particularly the hotel industry and businesses linked to the Colon Free Zone.

Contracting foreigners to be easier in Costa Rica

May 2008

After May 19, the list of types of companies that can contract foreign workers through special work permits will be expanded. Previously, foreign workers were restricted to jobs within the special economic zone.

Companies included in the new system are those that operate special programs of export promotions and productivity improvement, exporters of goods and services, tourist and financial operations, and the non-export sector.

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