Implementing a Culture of Labor Compliance in Costa Rica's Agricultural Export Sector

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Project Duration: December 2017 - November 2021

Fiscal Year & Funding Amount:
FY2017: USD 2,000,000

The Problem

In 2015, the United States imported $892 million in edible fruit and nuts from Costa Rica (primarily pineapples and bananas) and roughly $175 million in coffee.  While Costa Rica has made commitments towards improving labor standards as part of its trade-related obligations under the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and while seeking accession to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, workers in agricultural export sectors are still very vulnerable to violations of minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational safety and health laws. 


An independent investigation found that 50% of all agricultural export workers in Costa Rica are paid below minimum wage. Reports have also commonly revealed that workers often work overtime without compensation and are frequently exposed to likely carcinogenic agrochemicals.

Our Strategy

The project’s goal is to improve enforcement of minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational safety and health laws in the agricultural export sector in Costa Rica.  The project will strengthen the legal and administrative mechanisms designed to enforce labor laws while also working with employers and workers to improve implementation of those laws in the workplace.  The project will work with:

  • Workers, to empower them to identify and report labor violations;
  • Labor inspectors, to increase their knowledge, skills and resources to identify and appropriately follow-up on labor law violations;
  • Legal aid attorneys, to increase and improve representation of workers in labor cases;
  • Judges, to improve adjudication of labor cases in accordance with the newly adopted Procedural Labor Code Reform; and
  • Employers, to improve their compliance with laws related to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.

Grantee: Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM)

Implementing Partners:
Partners for the AmericasFENTRAG (Union of Agricultural Sector Workers)

Contact Information: (202) 693-4900 / Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA)