Panama Needs More Immigrants!

I was surprised when I read a team of Harvard professors, led by Ricardo Hausmann, PhD, delivered a recent white paper warning that Panama must start attracting more immigrants if rapid economic growth is going to continue. Immediately I envisioned the rickety, overcrowded boats rolling up on shores in Europe and families entering Turkey from war-torn countries. Of course, this isn’t what Dr. Hausmann and his cohorts were talking about.


Restricted Professions List

Only physicians who are Panamanian or married to a Panamanian can legally practice in Panama because of the government mandated “Restricted Professions List”. Healthcare in Panama is generally very good, with most professionals speaking fluent English.

People with incredible skill sets are constantly asking me about how they might secure a job in Panama and I always must be honest, telling them it’s hard. First, there are 25 professions on a government mandated “Restricted Professions in Panama” list dictating that only Panamanians and individuals married to Panamanians can work in certain job groups. Mostly the list covers licensed professionals such as physicians, dentists,

lawyers, certified public accountants, registered nurses, pharmacists, veterinarians, therapists and chemists but also hairdressers, engineers, journalists and cosmetologists. This was implemented to ensure those coveted jobs went to Panamanians as opposed to foreigners.


To protect the Panamanian work force even further, another law was implemented that mandated only 10% of a company’s workforce could be comprised of foreign nationals, even in unrestricted professions. That was changed to 1.5 foreign-born individuals out of ten for “expert workers”, but still, that is very low.


As Panama continues to develop as a regional power for international business centered on the service sector, additional accommodations were made for companies who located in “Special Economic Zones”. These areas included places such as Panama Pacifico, the City of Knowledge and the Colon Free Zone. According to Hausmann and his team, if Panama is going to continue to lead the region in interfacing with the rest of the globe, the country’s workforce cannot depend on primarily homegrown talent.


Exceptions for Multinational Companies

The City of Knowledge is a government supported platform that provides support for businesses and organizations to focus on dynamic networking, academic pursuits, business development and an array of research.

Recommendations are in the works and we should know shortly if and how restrictions on hiring immigrants will be lifted or at least loosened. The Panamanian government has allowed for many exceptions for international organizations with employees in Panama Pacifico, which is a planned community located in the old Howard Air Force Base and home to scores of multi-national companies.

Additional accommodations, allowing for more international employees, have and continue to be made for the City of Knowledge which is located just across the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal. This beautiful area is home to more than 200 organizations working within the government sponsored section of Panama City and dedicated to research and innovation. The area was initially the Headquarters for the United States’ Southern Command, known as Ft. Clayton and now bustles with employees, retail and high-end restaurants.


Exceptional Opportunities Exist


The international businesses and research efforts provide exceptional opportunities for both Panamanians and foreign nationals alike, but with rapid growth comes challenges. For example, where will these new employees live? Fortunately, there are several sections of Panama City that cater to the highly skilled employee, including Costa del Este and Playa Bonita.


In addition to the influx of foreign-born employees, Panama City is desperately trying to manage traffic congestion. Construction is underway on the fourth bridge over the Panama Canal which will greatly ease traffic between Panama City and west Panama. The cable-stayed bridge is projected to be completed after three to four years of construction and will be comprised of six lanes of vehicle traffic (three each direction), two rail sections serving as the third line of Panama’s Metro along with pedestrian and cycling lanes.


New Residential Investments

When completed, the fourth bridge over the Panama Canal will ease traffic between the capitol city and the west Panama. It will also provide mass transportation for all types of employees, both Panamanian and foreign born.

With Panama’s rapid growth only escalating, new residential construction promises to be an exceptional investment. However, because the bridge is not completed and legislation is still working through governmental channels allowing more foreign nationals to join Panama’s workforce, builder financing at these projects is at its most attractive.

I would love to discuss with you how and why it is the perfect time to diversity your investment portfolio to include Panama rental real estate. On-site property management, great incentives such as furniture packs and amenity filled residential towers with sweeping views of a booming economy. Please check out my website for more information: Feel free to email or phone me from the site or simply reply to my email.


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