The Panamanian government has traditionally tried to minimise native poverty by tough immigration laws which make it hard for foreigners to find work in Panama. This freeze on foreign employment is thawing to a certain degree, and foreign students and travellers can find casual, short-term or part-time work as deck-hands and baggage handlers, farm labourers and bar workers. However, it is vital that young foreign workers respect the needs of local labourers as well as legal restrictions when job-searching.

The other option for the non-skilled or casual (English-speaking) worker in Panama is to teach English � either through a language school in the city or offering independent tutorials. Official TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) websites such as Teach Abroad Panama give information on courses and job opportunities as well as country-specific advice on this work.

Although serious restrictions exist on paid work, a great number of foreign gap-year students and travellers commit to unpaid voluntary work in Panama, which can be rewarding in that it is educational, fun, and a great way to really get into local cultures. They vary wildly, from wildlife conservation projects such as Anconto government-run internships to English teaching or sports coaching in remote villages. Check charity and government websites for information on current projects.