Exploring the Current Minimum Wage in Colombia: What You Need to Know

The minimum wage in Colombia will rise 12% this year to hit 1’300.000 million Colombian pesos (COP) per month (approximately USD 335) — the largest increase seen this century.

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With inflation taken into account, minimum wage earners will see their spending power increase 7%, representing the greatest real terms rise in four decades, according to Infobae.

Transport subsidies will be set at 162,000 COP (approximately USD 41), representing a similar percentage rise to the minimum wage in Colombia. Anyone earning up to twice the minimum salary in Colombia is eligible for transport subsidies, which must be provided by the employer. Transport subsidies are treated separately from salaries, as they are excluded from tax calculations.

President Gustavo Petro has not made specific statements on the minimum wage recently. However, during his 2021 presidential campaign, Petro proposed raising the minimum wage to 1 million Colombian pesos (approximately $275) per month and establishing an indexation system to guarantee regular increases. His proposal also seeks to gradually eliminate the differential wage system by region and economic sector. It is important to note that these are proposals and have not yet been implemented.

According to the most recently available figures from DANE, the Colombian statistics agency, in 2020 Colombia’s workforce totaled 20.1 million people, of which 10.1 million earned a minimum salary or less. 

That included 4.1 million earning the minimum salary, while 6.1 million earned less than half of the minimum salary, which in 2020 stood at 877,803 COP (approximately US $219).

Approximately 48.5% of the workforce works in the informal sector, according to a recent study from Colombia’s EAFIT University – a rise of 1.3% on the previous year following a general pattern of decline over the previous decade.

Minimum Wage in Colombia remains below regional average

While the hike in the minimum wage in Colombia is an historic one, it still remains below the average for South America, which is around US 267 per month. Although, with the transport allowance taken into account, people earning minimum wage in Colombia will receive more than that figure. 

Uruguay has South America’s highest minimum wage, which in 2022 will be set at 22,245 Uruguayan pesos (approximately US $503) per month. Meanwhile, Chile has the continent’s second highest minimum wage, where it was set at 337,000 Chilean pesos (approximately US$400) in May 2021.

The lowest is found in Brazil, where the minimum wage will rise to 1,210 Brazilian reais (approximately US $213) in 2022. That falls slightly below the minimum wage in Peru, which sits at 930 Peruvian soles (approximately US $229.50). 

Note that Venezuela has been excluded from this comparison, owing to the difficulty of analysis based on currency conversions in the context of the country’s massive inflation due to ongoing political and economic turmoil. 

The Caribbean nations of Guyana and Suriname and French overseas territory of French Guiana have also been excluded.

However, while the new minimum wage in Colombia will be below the regional average, when the comparison takes into account gross national income (GNI) – a figure based on gross domestic product (GDP) per capita that is used as a key indicator of prosperity – the spending power of minimum wage earners in Colombia is comparable to those in the likes of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, where the minimum wage is higher.

Colombia a prime destination for investment & tech talent source

For many investors, the rise in the minimum wage in Colombia will not have a major effect because their operations are based around skilled or highly-qualified employees who earn significantly more – such as IT workers or local executives.

Even for those in sectors that use minimum wage labor, the country remains an enticing destination for investment.

Minimum wage in colombia. Comparison of minimum wages in selected Latin American countries, all data in U.S. dollars.

Colombia is one of the most popular destinations in Latin America for foreign direct investment (FDI), with US $13.99 billion of inflows entering the country in 2019, according to World Bank figures.  

That represented 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) – with FDI as a percentage of GDP following a fluctuating but generally upward trajectory over recent decade, highlighting the growth of foreign investment in the country. 

While Colombia’s economy experienced significant turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank has predicted that it would register GDP growth of 7.1% by the end of 2021 – recovering the losses from the previous year.

Colombia is famed for its coffee production and agricultural output, however its number one export product by value is petroleum oil. It is also one of the major sources of emeralds and has significant deposits of other precious gems and metals. Cut flowers, fruits, and nuts, are also major goods for the export market.

Colombia is also increasingly being recognized as a source of tech talent, with outsourcing in Bogota an increasingly popular option among companies seeking IT workers, while second-largest city Medellin has been named as one of Latin America’s new ´Silicon Valleys.’ 

Biz Latin Hub can assist you doing in business in Colombia

At Biz Latin Hub, we have the people in place to assist you in entering the market and doing business in Colombia.

We help clients bridge the cultural and linguistic gap when expanding into new markets within Latin America and the Caribbean, providing tailored packages of integrated back-office services to suit every need.

Our portfolio includes company formation, accounting & taxation, due diligence, legal services, and hiring & PEO, among others.

Whether you are planning to launch a manufacturing operation using workers on minimum wage in Colombia or need to hire a team of highly skilled IT developers, we can help you every step of the way.

We also have teams in 15 other markets in Latin America and the Caribbean, so we are ideally placed to support multi-jurisdiction market entries and operations.

Contact us today to discuss how we can support you.

Or read about our team and expert authors.

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The information provided here within should not be construed as formal guidance or advice. Please consult a professional for your specific situation. Information provided is for informative purposes only and may not capture all pertinent laws, standards, and best practices. The regulatory landscape is continually evolving; information mentioned may be outdated and/or could undergo changes. The interpretations presented are not official. Some sections are based on the interpretations or views of relevant authorities, but we cannot ensure that these perspectives will be supported in all professional settings.
Craig Dempsey

Craig Dempsey

Craig is a seasoned business professional in Latin America. He is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of the Biz Latin Hub Group that specializes in the provision market entry and back office services. Craig holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering, with honors and a Master's Degree in Project Management from the University of New South Wales. Craig is also an active board member on the Australian Colombian Business Council, and likewise also active with the Australian Latin American Business Council.

Craig is also a military veteran, having served in the Australian military on numerous overseas missions and also a former mining executive with experience in various overseas jurisdictions, including, Canada, Australia, Peru and Colombia.

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