In 1999, the labor force amounted to 1.9 million workers. The service industry accounted for 58%, industry 22%, and agriculture 20% of the workforce. Unemployment was 5.2% in 2000.
The law provides workers with the right to join and form unions, although this is limited in practice. Unionization was about 15% of the total workforce in 2002, and was made up of almost entirely public sector workers. Solidarismo, a Costa Rican alternative to traditional trade unions, has grown popular and probably now outnumbers union membership, comprising 18–20% of the total workforce. Solidarismo promotes cooperative labor/management relations by offering workers practical benefits (like credit unions), in exchange for which workers renounce their striking and collective bargaining rights. Solidaristas are established with mutual contributions from the employer and the workers, so that the fund serves as savings plan, benefits, and severance pay. Private sector workers have the right to strike, but public employees are prohibited from striking.
A minimum wage is set up by a National Wage Council. The private sector minimum wage ranged from $144 per month for domestic servants to $699 for certain professionals in 2002. The workweek is set at 48 hours during the day or 36 hours at night. Overtime pay is required for work in excess of that. Occupational health and safety standards are inconsistently enforced, especially outside of San José. Although child labor remains a problem, the government is working to eradicate abuses.