Working in Panama

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Panama | 1 comment

For many expats, including me, Panama is a dream of a host country, a dream we are living. But if you’re not yet financially independent or have a guaranteed income source outside of Panama, plan pragmatically how you will support yourself, because even if you got a work permit in Panama, your profession may reserved for Panamanian citizens only. The list below may cause you to rethink your strategy before making the move.

Protected Jobs in Panama

The concept is not new or Panamanian per se. The lovely island of Jersey, off the coast of France, has similar restrictions on what jobs foreigners may apply for. Even stronger restrictions apply to the Isle of Man. Here are the jobs non-citizens are normally not eligible to apply for:

Dentist Medical, including Therapists such as Social Worker
Dental Assistant Medical Doctor Sociologists Accountant
Lawyer Nurse Psychologists Hairdresser/Cosmologist
Economist Medical Assistant Physiotherapist Chemist
Veterinarian Medical Radiologist Speech therapist Engineering and Architecture
Chiropractor Laboratory Technician Agricultural Sciences
Pharmacist Journalism
Nutritionist Public Relations

Panamanian Economic Indicators

Panama is especially protective of its job market, and who would blame them? With an unemployment rate of over 7% in 2019 and 18.4% in 2020 due to COVID shutdowns, the employment rate forecast doesn’t look promising. Even though Panama’s economy rose over 12% in the first quarter of 2021, the unemployment rate forecast hovers around 8-9% in 2022.

tradingeconomics<br />By Unsplash
Tradingeconomics By Unsplash

Corporate Sponsorship

What jobs are there left for expats with a work permit? Few, it seems. Teacher comes to mind, perhaps – and many go this route teaching in private and public schools, or tutoring homeschoolers. Don’t expect to charge premium rates for teaching either. Sponsored jobs are also an option, which is also a qualifier for the Friendly Nations Visa. If you have a corporate sponsor, the above restriction may not apply if jobs cannot be filled with Panamanian talent. Foreign companies may offer much higher than Panama average remunerations.

Panamanian Salaries

The average Panamanian wage in 2019 was USD 1,200, a steep $200 drop from 2018. To maintain or improve a home-country lifestyle, an expat cannot rely on the Panamanian job market unless sponsored.

The best places to get a feel for Panamanian job offerings are and Latin America’s version of Craigslist: These two sites give a realistic flavor of the jobs available to citizens and expats with work permits, and their salaries.

The Best Solution

A glimpse of my home office in Panama City by LP Wirth
A glimpse of my home office in Panama City by LP Wirth

The best solution for expats is to derive income from outside Panama.

It’s tax-free!

Secure your non-Panama clientele before moving so you can work from anywhere and stay independent of the job market. Set up a mechanism for money transfer to Panama, and you’re all set.

The TCI article Banking in Panama is an Art will help. The good news is, many cities in Panama have reliable fiber optic internet. Make this a key decision point in your expat-planning.

Situations constantly change, here in Panama, and elsewhere. But our in-country TCI Alliance team with trusted expats in the Americas, EMEA, and Asia are here to give you up-to-date information on the lay of the land. Make sure you check in with them when you sign up for free. The Community member gives you even greater access to our resources. Why wait? Join today! We want you to succeed, too!

by: LP Wirth