Definition of Youth

In Costa Rica, the General Law on Young Persons (2002) defines youth as those aged between 12 and 35.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 15
  • --
  • Female
  • 18
  • 15
  • --

  • No specific legislation for same-sex marriage. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Law on Juvenile Justice of Costa Rica
MACR in Latin America

Majority Age


Source: Refworld

Voting Age


Compulsory voting.
Source:  Inter-Parliamentary Union

Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 99.22% Male (15-24) %
  • 99.43% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 70.62%Male %
  • 75.34% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 15.90% Male (13-15) %
  • 13.10% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Costa Rica adopted a new national youth policy in 2010, building on a 2006 action plan.

The principles of the youth policy in Costa Rica are laid down in the General Law on Young Persons (2002). This law is complemented by the Iberoamerican Convention on Rights of Youth. Both underpin the human rights approach that is fundamental to Costa Rica’s youth policy. Priorities of the national youth policy (2010) are to enable young people to fully participate in public life and engage as citizens. It recognizes young people as rights-holders regardless of their socio-economic conditions, ethnic or religious affiliations, or sexual orientation. Non-discrimination and social equality of all young people is promoted. The action plan (2006) focuses on the rights to health, housing, education, work, culture, sport and recreation, political participation, personal integrity and non-violence.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The key institution for youth is the Ministry of Culture and Youth, which oversees youth policies and programming. The Deputy Minister of Youth coordinates the national system of youth – a network of organisations and institutions – and conveys youth issues to the rest of the Cabinet and citizens. Numerous other state agencies in the fields of health, housing, banking and education are also involved in the implementation of the youth policy and action plan.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
Costa Rica has a National Council of Young Persons. This representative body of youth organisations is consulted in the making of youth policy, contributes to decision-making, and engages with implementation. Young people are also involved in the local development and implementation of youth policies through the Cantonal Committees of Young Persons. In 2013, the Council carried out a comprehensive Youth Survey that provides statistics on education, work, family life, health and perceptions of rights among young people.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
CRC 30.7 million
USD 61.8 million
In 2011, the Ministry of Culture and Youth had a budget of CRC 30.7 million (USD 61.8 million). This was equal to 0.56% of the national budget of the respective year. It is unclear what portion of this amount was spent specifically on youth. According to the World Bank, Costa Rica spent 23.06% of its government expenditure and 6.28% of its GDP on education provision in 2009.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

The 2010 Public Policy for Youth and Action Plan (original in Spanish, own translation) points out:

It is us young people that have to be taken into account. We are not the future, but the present. … The opportunities provided by the National System of Youth of Costa Rica are enviable and we must seize them. … The youth systems [of other countries such China, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico] have some good, but most have not achieved what we have in our country: a democratic and inclusive youth system that must further promoted and disseminated to the benefit of more young people.

The policy has the purpose of creating opportunities and conditions to ensure the exercise of the rights and citizenship of young people, developing their potential and their contribution to national development.

The Public Policy of the Young Person … is oriented to promote the integral development of young people. The main purpose of this policy is to ensure the fulfilment of rights, the full exercise of citizenship of young people and developing their skills, by strengthening the favourable conditions in the country and the creation of other to help resolve the obstacles to their development. … The achievement of this purpose involves the positive visibility of young people and their contribution to the country's progress in different fields, the struggle for equality between men and young women, the promotion of actions to achieve holistic health and optimal participation, promoting the conditions for inclusion in labour and economic education systems, health care for those not yet enjoying them, boosting overall strategies obtaining credit, housing and land, and the strengthening of conditions for the expression of young people in all its dimensions (artistic, recreational, sporting, intellectual, etc..).

The State must guarantee the compliance of the strategies, in turn, ensure compliance with the rights of young people, however, requires the support of civil society and the active and effective participation of young people. … This policy seeks to combine the action of the State and civil society in order to fully integrate women and young men of the country in the processes of economic, social, political and cultural transformation.

According to Indicators on Employment and Employability (2008) (original in Spanish, own translation):

Both, the rate of labour participation of the young, as well as of the total population have a tendency to increase. In 1990 the rates stood at 23.67% fort he young and at 38.03% for the total population. By  2006 they had increased to 34,7% and 44.7% respectively.

In 2006 unemployment among the young in the labour force (aged 12 to 35 years) stood at 9 per cent. For the same year 6 per cent of the total population were unemployed.