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Costa Rica
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Country information: Costa Rica



51 100 square kilometres


4,25 million (July 2009)

Capital city

San José (339.588 inhabitants 2006)

Official language


GDP per capita (PPP)

US $ 11 600 (2008)

Population growth

1.4 % (2009)

Life expectancy

77,6 years (men: 75 years, women: 80,3 years) (2009)

Infant mortality

8,8 per 1 000 live births (2009)

Rate of illiteracy

4% (2003)




Tourism plays an increasingly important role in Costa Rica. Package tourist and individual holiday-makers are attracted by the fine beaches, the expansive nature conservation parks and the long-term political stability. According to UNWTO in the year 2004 approximately 1,5 million guests came into the country and paid 1,1 billion Euro.


Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism

The growth in tourism, together with other factors, has led to the expansion of the leisure infrastructure. This in turn has triggered a growth in prostitution and traficking in humans. Prostitution is also encouraged by the existing social inequality: children are enticed by promises of well-paid jobs and end up being sexually exploited for commercial gain. The same fate can befall the street children, of which there are estimated to be some 8,000 in San José.

In order to tackle the rapid increase in sexual exploitation of children, including by tourists, FBI agents from Miami are training Costa Rican public prosecutors and the police about the appropriate way to deal with the perpetrators and the victims of commercial sexual exploitation. A further priority is to track cases on the internet.


Child abuse and child pornography is punished in Costa Rica with prison sentences of between five und 16 years. Costa Rica on 21 August 1990 also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has undertaken to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.


HIV/ Aids

According to estimates from UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, at the end of 2007 approximately 9.700 people in Costa Rica were infected with HIV, including 2.700 women. How many children were infected, could not be estimated. In the same year less than 200 Costa Ricans died following infection with HIV.


Local Contacts



Fundacion Procal (PROCAL)

San Pedro de Montes de Oca.

del Higuerón 400 mts. sur

y 10 este.

San José, Costa Rica

Phone: +506 253 08 75

Fax: +506 283 59 50



Fundacion Paniamor (Paniamor Foundation)

Apartado Postal 376-2150


San Jose, Costa Rica

Phone: +506 234 2993

Fax: +506 234 2956





State and society

Costa Rica is a presidential republic. Head of state and of government is a State President elected by the people. The legislative organ is the Congress. Due to the democratic constitution it has had since 1949, Costa Rica is known as "the Switzerland of Central America".


Four-fifths of the population are the descendants of immigrants, mostly Spaniards, 15 per cent are metis, and four per cent are black. More than 90 per cent of the population are Roman Catholic, and the proportion of Protestants is steadily growing. The Jewish community has considerable influence on social life.


In Costa Rica there is compulsory schooling between the ages of six and 14. In social policies, the government treats education as a priority. 96 per cent of the population can read and write.


The basis of Costa Rican society is family life, although traditional structures are increasingly breaking up. The proportion of families that are single-parent has risen to almost fifty per cent. One fifth of births are to mothers under the age of eighteen.

Men and women in Costa Rica have equal rights under the law. As in western countries, however, there are gaps between legal equality and the equal treatment of men and women in everyday life. Women have begun to play an increasingly important role in politics and business in recent years, but they are still under-represented. Average wages for women are some 20 % lower than those for men, and they are more likely to be unemployed.



The national economy of Costa Rica is based mainly on agriculture, and the main exports are coffee, bananas, meat, cocoa, and sugar cane. Industry is less well developed and is concentrated on the processing of the agricultural products. There are also a chemical and textiles industry.