This story from La Prensa shows clearly how market demand drives wages and not government mandates. With maids now making two and three times what they made just two years ago you can see that it is the foreigners who are driving up demand and wages for domestic help. Many Panamanians are dismayed at the increase cost of domestic help because for generations they have paid very little. I remember when we first moved to Boquete a live in Maid was paid about $90 a month. Whenever I tell Panamanian friends what we pay our household help many would say that we are ruining the system by overpaying. The fact is that people will pay more to domestics and any worker until they feel it is not worth the price or they just cannot afford it any longer.
The same is true for construction workers, waiters and taxi drivers. When there is demand prices go up. For Panamanians to really increase their economic standing, they must become better educated and skilled. Then they can command comparable wages to the first world and the cost will be worth it.
Demand for services and skilled labor has increased the average salary earned by blue-collar workers
A growing population of ex-patriates has contributed to the overall rise in wages
|LA PRENSA/ David Mesa|
|salaries surge: Because of the real estate development craze citywide, the Ministerio de Trabajo y Desarrollo Laboral (Mitradel) reports that some construction workers are earning up to $3,000 a month. 1017704|
The last four years of the strong economic growth has served to better not only the salaries of Panama´s white-collar professionals. Although bank executives, Canal workers and merchants in the Colón Free Zone have enjoyed a boost in pay; domestic employees, waiters, taxi drivers and laborers who depend on the minimum wage have noticed a difference in their earnings.
"I earned $125 two years ago and now I´m paid $250 to do the same work," said Lucía Quero, a maid in the home of a Venezuelan couple.
Lucía´s story is echoed by dozens of other domestic employees who are earning double or triple the wage they were earning two or three years ago. Most of those interviewed work for families with a higher purchasing power, usually foreigners from the United States, Canada, Europe, Colombia and Venezuela.