Panama is likely to close its doors to foreign workers after political parties and labor unions expressed concerns over the growing influx of undocumented migrant workers.
The upcoming Columbus Day on October 12 will see the last fair for issuing residence permits to foreign workers, according to an article on Panamaamerica.com.
The report comes after week-long protests from opposition parties and labor unions demanding scrutiny of the foreign workers’ regularization program, known locally as Melting Pot.
There is no data as to how many foreigners are working in Panama, but according to the 2010 census, the country is home to about 140,000 foreigners from 181 nations.
Foreign Affairs Minister Isabel Saint Malo said Panama will suspend the importation of foreign workers until it fully scrutinize its Melting Pot program, the web portal reported.
A lack of skilled labor, particularly technical professionals, has forced Panama to source talent from foreign countries. According to Estrategia y Negocios, four in ten Panamanian businessmen have difficulty finding the right talent for the job they are offering. In an Enterprise Survey from 2010, nearly 19% of firms cited lack of educated workforce as a barrier to expanding operations in Panama.
The original plan was for Panama to train its youths in the required skills alongside importing foreign labor. But opposition parties now argue that this program was “mismanaged.
In its 2012 report, Nathan Associates predicted that foreign workers will take over nearly 45% of jobs generated by the Panamanian economy from 2013 through 2025.