The average wage for a common laborer in the Dominican Republic is around 3,000 to 6,000 pesos a month. I came to this estimate after reading through some apparently well honed statistics earlier this morning. Though this knowledge stretched the bounds of my observations, and I had difficulty believing that this amount of pay could sustain a person with a family in Sosua — a town where a small piece of cooked chicken costs 30 pesos, an uncooked chicken breast 70, an avocado 25, and a loaf of bread 35 OUTSIDE of the tourist areas.
The Dominican Republic Peso is currently trading at 36 to 1 USD. Which means that the average wage for a common worker is around 86 to 172 US dollars a month, or $5 – $10 a work day (if on a five day a week schedule).
This low rate of pay compared to the high price of food ratio had me thinking: are these statistics correct? Or are they the result of the average wages of the entire country being pooled together where the cheaper regions dilute the sample so that the wages of the more expensive regions are not properly represented?
It is my impression that we are in a particularly expensive region of the country — the north coast — and I was wondering if the people working here really were paid the wages represented by the statistics — or if they were paid more.
I walked out of the hotel where our apartment is located with Petra. I was looking for some people who were working that would be willing to tell me how much money they made. I found a group of ladies at the back door of a restaurant/ bar. I walked up to them.
They began oogling over Petra, and I was provided with an in for my inquiry.
After the initial excitement of the baby — I handed her over to one of the women — I asked them if I could ask a question. They said OK.
“In the Dominican Republic, how much money does the common worker receive each month?” I asked in understandable Spanish.
The women stared at me as if I was nuts. This was probably not the question they were expecting. I admit, I was asking a very vague question, but I needed to open the conversation somehow. I wanted to ask directly, “How much money do you make?” but needed a couple primer questions first.
The women just sat there bumping Petra up and down on her knee for a minute trying to decide how to answer. A bright younger girl from the kitchen came running out to field my inquiries.
“It depends,” she said, “what kind of work are you talking about? Domestic work? To take care of a baby”?
“How much money does a restaurant worker make here?”
The answer was around 3,00o pesos a month.
“How much does a domestic worker get paid?”
My wife comes over and joins the conversation. The women mention baby care a couple of times, then the younger girl asked, “Are you looking for someone for day or night work?”
I was momentarily confused.
“They think you are trying to hire them,” Chaya pointed out to me in English.
I laughed, “No, I don’t want a worker, only information.”
The ladies laughed a little as well. My intentions were a little clearer. I was then told approximations of what people get paid for doing various occupations, but they stressed that everything dependent on other factors — such as a bartender at an expensive bar would make more money than one at a cheap bar. But I was only looking for estimates, I was only testing the bounds of the formal statistics that I had available.
From the impression that I took from this conversation, it seems as if the statistics stand — even for an expensive town like Sosua.
Average rates of pay and minimum wage in the Dominican Republic
The minimum wages of the Dominican Republic are tier and divided between what economic sector a person is working in.
In the Free Trade Zones, 4,900 Dominican pesos a month is the minimum wage.
Outside of the Free Trade Zones, the minimum wage is 4,485 and 7,360 pesos a month, which depends on the size of the company.
In the public sector, 2,600 pesos a month is the minimum wage.
For farm workers who are covered by minimum wage regulations, the minimum wage is 150 pesos a day, 95 pesos per day for cane workers in the sugar industry.
Average wages in the Dominican Republic by economic sector (some of the below stats are from 2004/ 2005 and may be outdated)
General private sector workers
- RD$3,900 – RD$6,400 per month depending on the company’s assets.
- RD$150 per day for farm workers
- RD$5,400 per month for night watchmen
Hotels, Bars, and restaurants
- RD$3,200 – RD$4,970 per month
- RD$2,607 – RD$4,439 per month
Industrial Free Trade Zone Workers
- RD$4,900 per month
Heavy duty machine operators
- RD$10,875 per month for operators
- RD$5,415 per month for assistants
Heavy duty farm equipment operators
- RD$5,000 per month
- Non skilled: RD$268 per day
- Skilled: RD$294 per day
- Assistant: RD$345 per day
- Operators: RD$448 – RD$639 per day
Master of trade
- RD$830 per day
A Dominican woman with an older foreign boyfriend reputedly gets at least 10 to 15,000 pesos a month. A sex worker proper probably makes a lot more.
Unemployment is around 15%
Information collected from second hand sources
Impression of family size in Dominican Republic
I read that the average family size in the Dominican Republic is around 5.5 people in urban areas and 6 people in the rural areas.
I began asking people in a random, highly unscientific way how many brothers and sisters they have. Most seemed to have at least three siblings, one lady had 15. I asked a group of four women how many children the average family in the Dominican Republic has, they all answered virtually simultaneous: “Mucho!”
“Seis, siete, ocho hijos es normal.”
“That is a lot of children,” I replied.
I did not ask how all of these kids could be supported on the wages outlined above and the going rates of food that I have observed here in Sosua.
Though I do know that something is not matching. I need to find out more.
When traveling, it is good to know the economic bounds of the people who live where you are passing through. If you know that the average wage of a general laborer is $3 a day, then you know that a public bus filled with common people that goes to the next town should not cost $15.
Knowing the amount of money that people make relative to how much goods and services in a country costs is also a good way to gauge the status of living to compliment independent observation.
Most people that I have observed here are smiling, happy, wed fed, and relaxed. The Dominican Republic is a very good country. It is my impression that the official demonstrators of income do not match the happiness index of this country.
I want to learn more.