The labor force in 1998 was estimated at slightly over one million. The unemployment rate in 2000 was estimated at 16%. Of those employed, 21% worked in agriculture, 19% in industry; and 60% in services.
The right to unionize is protected by law, and union membership accounted for 15% of those employed. The two major trade unions are closely identified with the country's two main political parties: the National Workers' Union with the PNP and the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union with the JLP. The Trade Union Congress is a third major union. The ability to strike is neither authorized nor prohibited by law and strikes do occur. The government rarely interferes with union organizing or bargaining efforts and it effectively enforces laws which prohibit discriminating against workers for their union activities.
Labor legislation covers such items as national insurance, employment of nationals, hours of work, minimum wages, employment of women and youths, apprenticeship, and welfare (workers' compensation and factory conditions). The industrial workweek is generally eight hours a day for five days with mandatory overtime pay for work in excess of eight hours. Hours in agriculture and some of the service industries vary, but are usually longer. The minimum wage was $30 per week in 2002, but most salaried workers earn more than the minimum.