Costa Ricans - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Ticos have mainly depended on agriculture, whether as a subsistence activity or as a large export business. Maize, beans, plantains, garden vegetables, cocoa, coffee, bananas, and flowers are examples of the crops. In addition, there is animal husbandry: beef and milk cattle, horses, pigs, goats, and birds (chickens, turkeys and, at present, even ostriches) are examples. Fishing has evolved into a major industry. In 1992 the gross national product showed the following percentage structure: primary sector (agriculture, forestry, mining, and fishing) 25.5; secondary sector (industrial) 19.3, and tertiary sector (services) 55.2. Agriculture generates over 28 percent of employment and accounts for close to 70 percent of exports. Tourism was the third source of income in 1989 and first in 1994.

Industrial Arts. Industry was mostly artisanal until the 1950s. One of its products, the painted wooden oxcart, became a symbol of the country. In 1957, 64.7 percent of industrial production and 68.5 percent of employment came from foods, shoemaking, clothing, and lumber products, with an average of three to ten employees per shop or factory. Larger industrial concerns were involved in printing and publishing, rubber products, and brewing plants. By 1963, Costa Rica had become fully integrated into the Central American Common Market. Industrial production became more mechanized in the 1960s and 1970s and grew rapidly. Chemical products, rubber, paper, and metal and electric items gained in importance. Foreign investment also influenced change; in the late 1950s it was 0.6 percent of total investment. By 1969 it was 21.1 percent of that total. By 1978 industry accounted for 24 percent of the gross national product, in contrast to 1 percent in 1950. By 1992, however, it accounted for only 19.3 percent. Costa Rica's Chamber of Industry was founded in July 1943. It had 700 affiliates in 1994, including business associations of the following industries: plastics, metals, vehicles, transportation, pharmaceuticals, shoes, textiles, foods, cosmetics, clothing, and graphic arts.

Trade. In the 1960s Costa Rica greatly increased the exportation of "traditional" products such as coffee, bananas, sugar, and beef, plus some manufactured products. By 1970, however, industry demanded the importation of 76.9 percent of the value of raw materials and 98.6 of the value of capital goods. The rise of oil prices after 1973 increased the country's trade deficit. Economic growth was reduced in 1974 and afterward. Inflation and public debt increased greatly. The 1980s were marked by a severe economic crisis. The search for new markets became more imperative than in the seventies. By 1975 over half of manufactured goods came from abroad (10 percent from Central America and 43 percent from outside the Isthmus), whereas only 20 percent of industrial production was exported. In 1980 manufactured goods exported to Central America totaled U.S.$255 million but diminished to U.S.$160 million by 1982. Even in 1992, the 1980 value had not been recovered. Exports to markets outside the Isthmus, however, have increased. From 1984 to 1989, the main exported manufactured goods were clothing, jewelry and similar items, machinery and electrical appliances, canned fruits and vegetables, leather, tires, and seafood. In 1990, 25 percent of these "nontraditional" exports went to Central America, and 75 percent went to the rest of the world. The challenge faced in the nineties is to increase production and access to foreign markets, especially those of Mexico, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada.

Division of Labor. In the generally prevailing pattern, women devote their time and training to their homes, husband, and children, and men to jobs outside the home. Specific variations of this pattern are numerous, however, for several reasons. Costa Rican laws are considered among the most advanced regarding equality of men and women. The gender movement toward making these laws apply in daily life is strong. Women increasingly combine wife-mother roles with student and work roles outside the home. They have entered practically all the trades, businesses, professions, and careers besides the traditional ones of jobs at home, teaching, social work, nursing, and office work. They have been appointed or elected to high political office; however, at this upper level men greatly outnumber women. Increasingly, men are helping with domestic chores, especially among young, well-educated couples.

Land Tenure. Private ownership is the norm. Arable land is unequally and inefficiently distributed, although programs for the redistribution of farmlands have been implemented since about the mid-twentieth century. The importance of small landholdings held by independent farmers is often mentioned as a main cause of the Tico cultural distinctiveness; about half the farmers are in the smallholder category. The greatest amount of land surface, however, is taken up by large holdings in the hands of less than 10 percent of all owners. A pattern of large landholdings is known as latifundismo. The trend continues toward land concentration and toward tinier plots for the greatest number of owners ( minifundismo ). Wage laborers with miniplots or no land at all are many. Land invasions by "squatters" occur in rural and urban areas. For instance, in 1985 there were 936 cases of invasion.


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