There is a high level of informality among foreigners who work in the tourism sector
Santo Domingo.- The hospitality industry often hires foreign workers, particularly during the early stages of construction and operation. In 2021, the National Institute of Migration reported that out of the 19,245 foreigners employed in this sector, 12,227 were in informal roles, making up 63.5% of the sector’s workforce that year. The National Institute of Migration’s recent report, titled “Labor Market and Foreign Labor in the Dominican Republic’s Tourism Sector,” highlights the ongoing issues driven by the irregular migratory status of employees and employers evading taxes.
Between 2016 and 2019, the number of foreigners in formal jobs nearly quintupled, going from 1,971 to 9,054. However, the closure of hotel activities in 2020 led to a slowdown. By 2021, 7,018 people were employed in the tourism sector, including 3,650 Venezuelans and 3,377 Haitians. Informal employment remains high, with 9,924 Haitian employees (56.6%) and 4,640 Venezuelans (37.9%), along with 5.4% from other nationalities (664 individuals).
Haitian immigrants are a significant group within the sector, especially in development projects in Punta Cana and Bávaro. As of March 2022, 7.8% of workers in the Hotels, Bars, and Restaurants subsector registered with the Social Security Treasury were foreigners (2,544 people), accounting for only 1.62% of the total immigrants in the system (157,049 in that month).
Most migrant workers in the sector are between 24 and 39 years old, with men mainly occupying jobs and women engaging in self-employment. Smaller establishments typically hire non-technical roles such as cooks, waiters, and customer service staff. Medium and large hotels hire administrative positions like chefs and technicians, complemented by foreign workers in roles like waiters, cooks, and receptionists.
The report suggests that subcontracting adds complexity to determining obligations and defending workers’ rights, particularly for informal positions. This precarious job situation exposes migrants to vulnerabilities, including regularization costs, segmented employment, and discrimination.
The National Institute of Migration recommends several steps to address these challenges:
– Conduct a study to determine labor needs regardless of nationality.
– Develop public policies to regularize foreign workers with Social Security.
– Consolidate and improve databases from relevant ministries to quantify labor migration.
– Enhance services in areas where sector employees reside and develop human capital for both foreigners and locals.
– Foster dialogue among institutions to assess labor needs and conduct sociodemographic analyses of the tourism workforce.
Both employers and workers have their needs. The tourism sector seeks foreign employees proficient in multiple languages with specialized skills, while immigrants aim for regular immigration status to secure formal contracts and improve their quality of life. Haitians aspire to independent work, Venezuelans want to enhance their skills, and individuals of other nationalities strive for career advancement.