Household Servants in Costa Rica

The notion of housemaids and gardeners seem a bit wild for most of us who live in the United States. (The last time we hired a cleaning lady, she charged $14 an hour and wouldn't do win­dows or dishes.) But in Costa Rica, servants are affordable. With the minimum wage for domestic servants at 86,670 colones a month ($175 at the present exchange rate), it makes sense to hire a housemaid and a gardener—at least on a part-time basis. Ticos are generally hard working and honest, and if you can afford it, you can have someone working around the house, who won't complain about doing windows and dishes.

However, be aware that fringe benefits added to the basic minimum wage raise the true cost of hiring servants. By law, you are responsible for things like vacations, Christmas bonus, social security and severance pay. Yet even with all of these things added, a housemaid in Costa Rica costs an employer about $215 a month, at today's minimum wage rate. (Wages are indexed twice a year, according to inflation.) Many people report that they pay more than minimum wage; it makes their employees happier and loyal. Servants are affordable, but you must be aware of the laws covering their benefits. You are responsible for knowing about them and paying them on time. These rules are discussed thoroughly in Chapter Eleven of this book. Don't hire a servant until you've read the rules!

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