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indicator value unit
Population mil.
Visitors per year mil.
Renewable energy %

How’s Life?

Costa Rica has made considerable progress in improving the quality of life of its citizens over the last decade. Notwithstanding, relative to other countries in the Better Life Index, Costa Rica underperforms  the average in income, jobs, education, social connections, civic engagement, safety and life satisfaction. These assessments are based on available selected data.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Costa Rica, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 16 517 a year, much less than the OECD average of USD 30 490 a year.

In terms of employment, about 55% of people aged 15 to 64 in Costa Rica have a paid job, below the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 68% of men are in paid work, compared with 41% of women. In Costa Rica, 22% of employees work very long hours in paid work, above the OECD average of 10%, with 28% of men working very long hours in paid work compared with 13% of women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Costa Rica, 43% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, lower than the OECD average of 79%. However, completion varies between men and women, as 41% of men have successfully completed high school compared with 44% of women. In terms of the quality of the education system, the average student scored 415 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is lower than the OECD average of 488. On average in Costa Rica, boys outperformed girls by 4 points. This gap is nearly the opposite of the OECD average where girls outperformed boys by 5 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Costa Rica is around 81 years, the same as the OECD average. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 78 for men. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 17.5 micrograms per cubic meter, above the OECD average of 14 micrograms per cubic meter. In Costa Rica, 87% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, higher than the OECD average of 84%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a moderate sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Costa Rica, where 82% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, less than the OECD average of 91%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 66% during recent elections, lower than the OECD average of 69%.

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Costa Ricans gave it a 6.3 grade on average, lower than the OECD average of 6.7.


For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s social and economic progress has been remarkable. Over the last 30 years, growth has been steady and GDP per capita has tripled. A strong commitment towards trade openness has been key to attract foreign direct investment and move Costa Rica up in the global value chain

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Costa Rica in Detail