This post is also available in: Spanish
By: Staff at Panama Offshore Legal Services
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Panama has one of the best economies in all of Latin America. While the unemployment rate is low, there are still many jobs available which foreigners can apply for. Like most countries, Panama requires foreigners to obtain a work permit from the Ministry of Labor. Many large foreign companies operating in Panama can assist new employees with getting a work permit. Not so for the smaller foreign-owned companies or local companies.
Panama’s Labor Code limits a working day to 8 hours maximum from Monday through Friday between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to Noon. Night shifts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. require a maximum of 7 hours.
Employment contracts can be for either specific durations or indefinite times. They must be in writing, stating the employee’s name, cedula number, address, salary, conditions of employment, payment dates, job description as well as the employee’s responsibilities and information on working hours, time breaks and holidays. There must be three duplicate copies (1 copy for each party and 1 copy for the Ministry of Labor).
Panama’s minimum wage is set at $416 per month which averages out at $2.31 per hour for a 45-hour week. The highest minimum wage is $3 per hour for employees in the Free Trade and Special Economic Zones and $3.85 for international airlines and cabin crew employees.
Finding a job in Panama can be tricky for foreigners, but not impossible. Panama’s economy is primarily based on the service industry. Banking, financial services, tourism, trading, and hospitality such as hotels and restaurants are the main service industries in Panama. In addition, there are hundreds of multinational corporations looking for foreigners, especially if they are bilingual. To find a job here look at the local newspaper classified ads, job websites, Craigslist Panama, and LinkedIn where all the major multinational companies in Panama advertise. There are also several employment agencies in Panama where you will have to pay a commission if they find you a job.
Before spending the time looking for a job consult with a Panama attorney about what types of immigration visas allow you to obtain a work permit and if your visa is one of them.