Poverty and jobs survey has something for everyone

A new report on employment and poverty was more fodder for the spin doctors. Competing economic interests had their own views.

For the business chamber, the figures were cause for concern. The chamber, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, cited an increase in unemployment and poverty and called upon public officials to move to reactivate the economy.

The survey by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos showed a tiny rise in unemployment from 7.3 percent in 2010 to 7.7 percent this year. Some 6.4 percent of householders were in extreme poverty, the survey report said.

In all, the survey said that 287,367 householders, some 21.6 percent, had per capita incomes of less than 92,122 colons ($181.16) per month for urban dwellers, what the institute considered the poverty level. For rural households the figure was 70,970 colons ($141.09). Extreme poverty was considered to be a monthly per capita income of less than 41,842 colons ($83.19) in urban areas and 34,921 colons ($69.43) in rural zones.

Casa Presidencial quickly announced that the increase in poverty confirmed that need for new
taxes. President Laura Chinchilla Miranda was quoted as saying that her administration was more concerned about the apparent inequality in an economy that is growing at 4 percent a year. Those who have will have to give up some for those who do not, said Casa Presidencial.

The administration is trying to put through a major tax increase that includes a value-added tax.

In fact, the unemployment and poverty figures are relatively stable. The differences this year are within the range of the statistical margin as the institute tries to infer findings from 13,440 households to the entire nation. The survey on which the results are based took place in July.

Women’s groups quickly cited reports that 72.2 percent of the men have jobs while only 41 percent of the women are employed. The institute said that this shows the difficulty of women participating in the labor market. Male unemployment was reported at 6 percent while that for women was 10.3 percent, the institute said.

As with all such surveys everywhere, the survey may or may not have considered the underground labor market. Those in such businesses, illegal or tax avoiding, generally are not candid in surveys. In addition, some respondents lie when asked questions about household size and income.

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