Panama is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Americas, but it’s also an ideal place for professionals seeking to relocate. Both nationals and expatriates find a plethora of opportunities for employment in Panama in this vibrant, diverse and resilient economy.
Overall, unemployment remains much lower than in some other nations, with just 4.5 percent of the nation’s population out of work. In fact, Panama’s growing economy has resulted in steadily declining unemployment figures since 2001. Panama is listed at #39 in the world in terms of its unemployment rate, a stark comparison to countries like the U.S., Spain, France and even Canada.
One of the fastest-growing sectors of the Panamanian economy is infrastructural development. Several key projects are currently underway that have not only created and will continue to create thousands of new jobs but also bolster the nation’s already strong economic presence in Central America. The expansion of the Panama Canal will cost more than $5 billion, but has created new trade opportunities and facilitate a greater number of vessels coming into and out of Panama. Similarly, the Panama City mass-transit project will improve public transportation in the nation’s capital and create new jobs. This kind of investment demonstrates the Panamanian government‘s commitment to strengthening the nation’s infrastructure, creating new employment opportunities and encouraging foreign investment.
Agriculture is another crucial part of the Panamanian economy, and according to data from the U.N., almost 20 percent of the country’s workforce is involved in this sector.
Finding work in Panama
As an economic hub for several industries including tourism, financial services and manufacturing, bilingual professionals with a college education are highly valued by many employers. Several large organizations maintain a strong presence in Panama, including Adidas, Proctor & Gamble, Copa and Nestlé, among many others.
The country’s hospitality industry is also dependent on bilingual professionals, due to Panama’s popularity as a vacation destination for English-speaking visitors. In 2012 alone, there was a 22.8% increase in services for non-residents, according to La Prensa, Panama’s leading newspaper. Many small businesses place great value on college-educated foreign professionals, as these companies often lack the means to promote individuals from within in other locations in the same way that larger organizations can. Above all, English is a tool in Panama for finding employment, and many individuals move to Panama to learn Spanish, gradually incorporating their bilingual services in employment as they learn.
While many individuals secure offers of employment prior to departing for Panama, some do not. Fortunately, in-person networking is still very much part of Panama’s professional culture, so even if you don’t have a job lined up, don’t be afraid to reach out, make connections and start expanding your personal network. Many job descriptions that might be ideal for you are actually unpublished- it just takes some creativity and friendliness to begin networking and secure a job shortly after arriving.