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Miguel Arturo Deleon, 18, moved to the United States with his father when he was seven. A year ago, he returned to the Dominican Republic to study, because he could not afford to go to a good university in the US. He works in the capital, Santo Domingo, for a US-Dominican company that handles credit card transactions for retailers. His job is to take phone calls from Canadian customers and answer any questions they may have about their payments.

Miguel Arturo Deleon
Miguel Arturo Deleon

Income, basic costs, retirement provisions

Deleon earns the equivalent of €393 (£355) a month. He pays €41 in income tax, pension contributions of €11.50 and €13 for health insurance. He lives with one of his four sisters in a flat belonging to their mother and pays €44 a month for their shared internet service. His studies cost €45 and the car €23.50. This leaves him €215.

What does work mean to you?

Exchanging time for money. You have to work to be successful. I have been working since I was 16, because I have a goal in life.

What is that?

I dream of having my own company, because it is very difficult to get a good job here, unless you have connections. I would like to sell medical equipment, like my father. I am saving up to do that. I am studying business administration at the private Instituto Tecnológico, where I am learning how to run a company. Next year, I hope to open a small restaurant with a friend. Then I won’t have to work at the call centre any longer. Restaurants are very popular in the Dominican Republic – everyone enjoys going out for a meal. 

What are your biggest problems and how do you deal with them?

My university studies and my car. I attend university from 7am to 3pm, work 4pm to 11pm, get home tired and then still have to do my homework; five days a week. Studying is very expensive. On top of that, I keep having to pay to have my car repaired, because people here jump red lights and cause accidents. But you cannot get by in Santo Domingo without a car.

What do you do when you want to give yourself a treat?

I play basketball or go to a restaurant with friends. We eat burgers and talk. Or we go to clubs to dance and have fun.

Why are there so many call centres in Santo Domingo these days?

Wages are low in the Dominican Republic. The minimum wage is €145 a month. Even though call centres here pay their agents twice that, it is still cheap for the companies. And with many young people returning from the US, you can find employees who speak English to serve the customers, most of whom are located abroad.

Dominican Republic

Population: 10.7 million
Currency: Dominican peso (DOP)
(€1 / £0.91= 57 DOP)
GDP per capita: €6,775 (£6,136)
Human Development Index (2016): 99th of 188,
(Germany 4th, UK 16th)

Current average costs

5 bananas, or a can of Coca-Cola: €0.41 (£0.37)
1 can of beer: €1.64
1 city trip with a hailed shared taxi: €0.49
1 kilo of chicken fillet: €2.52
1 kilo of beef fillet: €3.25