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Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 04:42 PM EDT

More Foreigners Looking For Work In Panama

Employment & JobsThe foreign population in Panama is increasing. Outsiders see the country as a safe route to employment. One example is the 15% increase in approved work permits for workers of other nationalities in the first five months of 2012. This upward trend of migration is displacing Panamanian workers who are concerned this situation increases unemployment and lowers wages.

Labor Supply - The arrival of multinationals with specific technical requirements, and in some cases a lack of a skilled local (Panamanian) workforce have pushed the employment of foreigners in the country. The work related to the project to expand the Panama Canal and the construction of Metro Line One are also allowing for workers from other countries to see Panama as a job offer that is opening up thanks to sustained economic growth.

Market In The Sights - A statistical report from the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (Mitradel) shows that so far in 2012 a total of 5,123 work permits have been issued to foreigners. Most of the applications are for people who are married to Panamanians. Foreigners staying in the country come from 74 different nations. Mitradel Statistics show that of all labor migration, 36.3% is from Colombia. Then followed by Venezuela (9%), China (6.5%), Dominican Republic (6.1%) and Nicaragua (4.7%).

Concern - Rafael Chavarria, an official of the National Confederation of Organized Workers (CONATO), yesterday expressed concern at the increase of foreigners in the country. He said the authorities should control the entry of foreigners, since due to the development of mega projects being built in the country, they are taking advantage of this situation to put their eyes on the labor market in Panama. Although Chavarria admitted that labor migration is positive in part because of the new experiences and technologies brought to the table by people of other nationalities, he said they are displacing Panamanian workers.

Samuel Vargas, the Director General of Employment at Mitradel does not agree with Chavarria. He said although work permits are kept on the rise, this is not an alarming figure for the country. Vargas said it has been difficult for companies to hire staff for key areas such as general helpers, drivers, sales, and high-profile positions such as electricians, engineers, plumbers and bricklayers.

Strengthen Human Resources - For her part, the director of operations in Mexico, Central America and Dominican Republic for the US firm Manpower, Maria Luisa Rocha, said there is need to strengthen human resources in the English language, to prevent these vacancies from being filled by foreigners. She said "a major challenge" is to place the right people in business who need to "capitalize on the talents of young people." Rocha added that in Panama unemployment is at 4.5%, but among those aged 15 to 24 years of age it's at 12.7%, so "we must focus on helping young people find a job opportunity that is attractive to them, where they can develop their capabilities," she said. (Mi Diario)

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