Uruguay at a Glance
Working in Uruguay
Uruguay displays many of the traits that the seasoned expat will have come to expect from developed nations, among them a strong services sector and healthy (in the fiscal sense) industry. However, while in many places around the globe agriculture only adds a rather negligible contribution to the gross domestic product, it is of quite vital importance to the Uruguayan economy.
Uruguay has long made exports one of the main focus points of its economy: 2013 saw a new record with a total of USD 9.155 billion. Most of the top exports are produced in the primary sector. The export of both unprocessed and processed agricultural goods is an important pillar of the national economy.
Soybeans and cattle are two of the agricultural staples Uruguay might be most well-known for, and which rake in the biggest share of export profits. Apart from those, the primary sector also produces rice, wheat, wool, milk and dairy products, and lumber. The latter is particularly important for one of the country’s most popular export goods, wood pulp/cellulose. It is estimated that more than 4/5 of Uruguay’s land area is used for cattle and sheep farming and industries related to them.
The industrial sector is largely active in food and beverage processing. Other important industries include chemicals, textiles, and machinery. Automotive and, increasingly, aeronautical industries have been on the rise in the past years. As of late, the country has also shown interest in exploring possibilities for offshore drilling, with some of the world’s largest oil companies having placed bids for drilling rights.
Services in Uruguay are characterized by a strong public sector, with the government monopolizing a number of important utilities such as water and landline telecommunications, and a well-educated workforce. Banking and consulting, IT, life sciences, logistics, and tourism employ many of the people working in Uruguay.
A More Than Solid Track Record
Since the days of the nation's most recent economic crisis at the turn of the century and the reforms and structural improvements that followed, people working in Uruguay have been able to reap the benefits of vigorous economic expansion.
The country has been able to maintain positive economic growth throughout the harsh times the global economy lived through during the end of the past decade, and also managed to remain relatively unscathed by the problems its neighboring countries and Mercosur partners Brazil and Argentina have been facing. However, their impact is still tangible, as the record growth of the Uruguayan economy (close to 9% in 2010) slowed down in good part due to the struggling economies of the nation's biggest trade partners. On average, the Uruguayan economy grew by 6% annually between 2005 and 2013, and was even able to grow in the year the crisis hit hardest, 2009.
Unemployment hit a historical low in 2012, with around 6% of the population being out of a job. Since then, figures have increased slightly, but are still a far cry from the unemployment rates that plague many other nations in the region.
A Magnet for Foreign Investment
With its strategically beneficial location in the Southern Cone, in close proximity to a number of huge markets, its reliable infrastructure and macroeconomic stability, its highly educated workforce, and attractive tax incentives, Uruguay has become one of the more popular options for foreign direct investments. The country offers not only both a free seaport and airport, but also a large number of free trade zones in which multinational companies working in Uruguay can set up shop and operate without having to worry about income or import taxes, as long as they meet a number of criteria. Thus, it should not be too much of a surprise to hear that many of the world’s leading multinationals have established operations in the country.