Percentage of Population Age 65 and Over
Ecosystem for Policy and Social Innovation
For 70 years, Costa Rica has followed a deliberate and consistent approach to social policy and human development, cultivating an ecosystem for innovation based on principles of democracy and universalism, a holistic approach to human welfare and sustainable development, and collaborative engagement. With the abolition of the military in 1948, the government turned its focus to internal security and strengthening the nation from within. This included broad investments in human welfare, such as health education and environmental protection for all people living in Costa Rica. That commitment, coupled with political stability, has enabled relative peace and social development in an otherwise volatile region.
The unique commitment to human welfare and a principle of universalism—that all people, regardless of age, income, or other differentiating factor, should have equal access to high-quality social services as a basic right—encapsulates the governing ethos and as such has been enshrined into the country’s constitution. The government and its partners seek to establish alliances with global institutions and aging experts to incorporate best practices and to implement more coordinated and robust programs that are tailored to the unique and evolving needs of Costa Rica’s aging population.
“Not only is working with government institutions important, but collaboration with NGOs and foundations are also vital to ensuring that the programs develop.”
– Emiliana Rivera, Director of CONAPAM
Driving Forces of Innovation and Cross-Sector Collaboration
While Costa Rica is at the leading edge on a range of aging issues, it lags in enabling the continued productive engagement of older adults, who have traditionally been supported within a family unit and by the national pension system. As the share of older adults grows, these supports are coming under strain, requiring both systemic reform and a holistic approach to enabling continued workforce participation. Programs to keep older adults productively engaged are expanding, but additional skills development and direct support will be needed as Costa Rica seeks to maintain economic competitiveness as its society ages.
According to INEC statistics which measure employment rates for the population age 60 and older (70 percent of whom are 65 or older), nearly 78 percent did not participate in the labor market. Of those employed, 7.1 percent were considered underemployed, and 70.4 percent were employed in the informal sector.
Employment Breakdown of the Older Population
Costa Rica made pioneering investments in an expansive communications infrastructure network in the 1990s. This laid a foundation for digital and technological engagement of its older population today. The government fostered “CR net,” a project to establish the connective backbone of the country serving everyone in Costa Rica, regardless of location, making it the first in the region to link to the internet. Today, Costa Rica has an 85 percent internet penetration rate, the second highest for Latin America after Chile, and is working to ensure digital inclusion across its population, including tailored programs for older adults at all four of the country’s universities. Programs are dispersed but growing, as older adults increase their demand for, and utilization of, mobile technology—particularly for social connection and health services. While private-sector participation in this space has been limited to date, local tech-focused startups are emerging due to growing market opportunities.