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Employment in the Dominican Republic
- The local economy is growing, especially the technology sector, but income inequality is still a major issue.
- The unemployment rate is high, so it is advised to increase your chances by brushing up on your Spanish and English skills.
- Dominicans value networking and relationships, and they are fierce negotiators.
The Economy of the Dominican Republic
In the past, working in the Dominican Republic meant you were in the export business. The Caribbean island nation has long been a leading exporter of sugar, tobacco, and coffee. Although the services sector in general, tourism in particular, has become the most important source of jobs in the Dominican Republic today, agriculture is still a major sector. Many of the country’s export goods are valued not only for their quality, but also for their organic certification.
It hasn’t just been the tourism and travel sector but also the establishment of free trade zones that have given the economy a significant boost. The latter have attracted foreign investors, who have contributed to economic growth and created new jobs for locals and foreigners working in the Dominican Republic. These zones mostly focus on production in the fields of textiles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco products.
Another new area of development in the Dominican Republic is the technology sector, which focuses on training the labor force to work in high-tech industries. The Santo Domingo Cyberpark is designed to attract investors in this very field. Expats working in the Dominican Republic’s technology sector might find themselves employed by a software, computer design, or high-tech manufacturing company in this area. Despite the country recovering well after the global financial crisis in 2008, the Dominican Republic still suffers from significant income inequality and considerable unemployment.
The Dominican Republic’s workforce of over 4.9 million people is often considered the country’s greatest economic asset, according to various independent surveys. Employees are said to be hard-working, trainable, and skillful — even though the government spends minimally on education.
Approximately 64% of all people working in the Dominican Republic are employed by the government or work in the services sector; 15% of the labor force is working in the Dominican Republic’s agriculture sector; the industry sector, predominantly manufacturing, employs about 22% of the entire workforce. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate is still at an alarming 14%.
Employment in the Dominican Republic
It may seem difficult for you at first to find work in the Dominican Republic. However, employers are usually quite flexible and might even be happy to hire expats. Nevertheless, it’s always better to have a job secured before moving to the DR. Employment opportunities in the Dominican Republic are limited unless you work in a particularly in-demand industry and/or have specialized skills. Further, if you don’t speak Spanish, your options are restricted to working in the tourism industry, in IT, for an international corporation, or in a call center, as well as teaching English (TEFL). Speaking fluent Spanish, on the other hand, allows you to benefit from a greater variety of jobs, rather than being confined to those sectors mentioned.
Additionally, you should remain flexible when you make plans for working in the Dominican Republic. The concept of “expert” is a very generous one and you may just find yourself doing a job that you never dreamed you could do. Remember though, the cost of living in the Dominican Republic might be lower than what you’re used to, but when you’re working in the Dominican Republic, your salary will likely reflect this.
Another thing you should do to get ready for working in the Dominican Republic is to do as much research as you possibly can, e.g. on language in the Dominican Republic. Dominicans speak a unique variety of Spanish and use particular terminology in work situations, which is why you should have a native speaker check your CV if you plan on applying for a Spanish-speaking position; if they can teach you some interview etiquette as well, it will help your chances of getting a job in your new home.
Find out if companies from your home country have offices in the DR as this might be one of the easier routes to employment. If you consider teaching at language schools, contact individual schools before your move: some of them may be willing to pay you a higher salary to teach, especially with a TEFL qualification, if they recruit you from abroad.
Business Destination Dominican Republic
The Job Search
As in most other countries, working in the Dominican Republic requires some determination. Search local newspapers like the Listín Diario for job ads. They are usually listed under “Empleos” but may also be scattered all over the paper. Be sure to skim through the entire newspaper to avoid missing an interesting post. If you come across ads which do not specifically state what the job is about, you should be suspicious. More often than not, these ads are for rather dubious jobs.
Your embassy or consulate, as well as your country’s chamber of commerce, might also have a list of businesses and companies looking for employees from your home country. Employment agencies are another source which shouldn’t be disregarded throughout your job search. You are usually not required to pay for their services. Do remember to take your CV and photographs along when visiting them to ensure the appointments go as efficiently and effectively as possible. One of the bigger employment agencies is G.A. Tavares & Asociados, which mostly deals with secretarial, managerial, and executive positions.
Free Trade Zones in the Dominican Republic
There are over 46 industrial free zones in the Dominican Republic, with more of them under development. About 500 companies operate in the free trade zones, offering employment to around 200,000 people. The free trade zones play an important role in the Dominican economy. After all, 70% of all Dominican exports come from industries and businesses within the free trade zones.
While apparel is the leading industry, the focus is also shifting to other areas of production, including electrical products, cigars, medical instruments, and pharmaceuticals. It is not just the manufacturing industries, but also the services sector in the free trade zones which are growing; typical industries include telecommunications, marketing, and travel agencies. All in all, these zones keep attracting foreign investors. This is also due to the fact that local companies outside of the free trade zones are integrated with free zone operations. Exporters with producers located outside the free trade zones benefit from a special free zone status.
As an export nation, the Dominican Republic relies heavily on its major ports to transport its goods abroad. One of the biggest is Rio Haina Port near Santo Domingo, from which exports are shipped to Puerto Rico, as well as to over a dozen US ports. Millions of dollars are spent to renovate the Haina Port so that it can keep up with increasing demand. In 2003, the Multimodal Caucedo Port commenced operations; it is located east of Santo Domingo, close to Las Americas International Airport, and handles most of the free zone cargo.
The Port of San Pedro de Macoris and Manzanillo port are smaller ports which predominantly handle industrial and agricultural cargo. The Port of San Pedro is located at the mouth of the Higuamo River in the southeast while Manzanillo Port is located in the northwestern province of Monte Cristi close to the Haitian border. As well as the cargo terminals, many ports have terminals for cruise ships as well. The Port of Santo Domingo, for example, accommodates both cargo and passengers via its two modern terminals.
The Dominican Business Etiquette
In the Dominican Republic, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know! This is why networking, name-dropping, and doing and collecting favors are important aspects of doing business in the Dominican Republic. It is important that you put a lot of work into building trusted relationships. In this endeavor, show your business partners respect and pay close attention to hierarchies.
Although the first meeting is usually quite formal, small talk is common, as is the fact that you will often be interrupted and that several people might all speak at once. Try to be patient and be very careful with facial expressions and gestures. After all, you don’t want to start off your business life in the Dominican Republic by offending anybody, do you? Either way, it will take at least a few meetings to convince them of your brilliance. The Dominicans are known to be very direct and skilled in terms of negotiating; they drive hard bargains. Be patient, don’t try to rush the process along, and keep your eyes on the prize.
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