hero-uruguay

Uruguay

Uruguay is a model of professionalism, transparency and egalitarianism in South America. It is small, both in terms of geography and population, but it packs a powerful punch as it plays a vital role as a business centre and a trading port, between the two giants of Brazil and Argentina.

This guide was last updated in April 2022.

Welcome to Uruguay

Lifestyle wise, Uruguay has it all. From the cosmopolitan, beachfront cafes and bars of Montevideo to the stunning cattle and sheep ranches of the interior and the fashionable playgrounds of the coast, the climate and quality of life make it a top choice in the region.

HSBC has had a strong presence in Uruguay since 1998. Our dedicated team of professionals is well equipped to support your trading needs in this market. We have specialists on the ground, and offer a range of services, including Treasury, Investment Banking, and Credit & Lending.

I look forward to offering my personal service as we discuss how we can support your business growth in Uruguay.

geoffrey-fichte
Geoffrey Fichte Chief Executive Officer, HSBC Uruguay

Rincon 391, 11000
Montevideo, Departamento
de Montevideo

Ranked

# 101

for ease of doing business (in a survey of 190 measured economies by The World Bank)

Essentials

map-uruguay
Population
3,544,0001
Size
175,020 square km
(67,576 squared miles)
Main languages
Uruguayan Spanish
Commercial capital city
Montevideo
Other major cities
Salto, Colonia, Punta del Este
Currency
Uruguayan peso ($U)
Dialling code
+598
GDP
US$15,438 per capita2
Top exports
Beef, wood, oil seeds, dairy, eggs and honey, cereals
Top imports
Mineral fuels including oil, machinery including computers, vehicles, electrical machinery, plastics and plastic products
Unemployment rate
9.4%3
Corporation tax
25%4
Typical office hours
9am – 5pm (Monday to Friday)
Time zone
GMT - 3hours
Emergency numbers
911 (police), 105 (medical assistance), 104 (fire brigade)

1 Britannica, 2021
2 World Bank Group, 2020
3 Trading Economics, 2021
4 PwC, 2021

Uruguay: Latin America’s vital business hub

  • Small country, powerful outlook

    On a map, Uruguay appears tiny, surrounded by its much larger neighbours, Brazil and Argentina. But Uruguay has five times more land than the Netherlands with five times fewer people. Low population density combined with open space has afforded Uruguay immense economic opportunity.

  • Educational free thinkers

    With a 98.7% literacy rate, Uruguay has one of the most literate populations in Latin America, equal to that of the United States. Education is free at all levels, with the nation boasting seven universities.

  • Winning the war against Covid

    Thanks to swift action by the government, innovations in testing and strict adherence to WHO recommendations, Uruguay was able to keep a lid on the Covid-19 pandemic, providing positive lessons for the region and the world.

  • Digital ambitions

    Due to community, government and stakeholder investment, over the past decade Uruguay has been committed to the widespread rollout of mobile and internet services. The nation’s Digital Agenda has been one of the great tech success stories in Latin America.

  • It’s easy being green

    Uruguay generates 98% of its energy from renewable sources, making it one of the leading countries globally in renewable energy generation. Uruguay may be South America’s second smallest country, but its use of sun, water and wind makes it a major player in the sustainability space.

Country profile

Uruguay is dwarfed by its neighbours, Brazil and Argentina. However, having overcome a challenging past, today Uruguay is rising high in the region and on the global stage.

Before the first European stepped foot on Uruguayan soil in the 16th century, the country was inhabited by the seminomadic indigenous people, the Charrúa. Roaming the grasslands or pampas, the Charrúa were known for their ferocity in battle.

Unfortunately, the Spanish brought disease and modern warfare and, 100 years later, the Charrúa were facing destruction. In fact, for a long time Uruguayan school students were told their country had no indigenous population. It is only recently that Uruguayans have been learning about their indigenous roots. As a result, Charrúa culture is experiencing a renaissance.

One aspect of Charrúa culture to endure is horsemanship. By the mid-18th century, a group of nomadic and colourfully adorned horsemen ruled the Uruguayan grasslands. Known as ‘gauchos’, these men were typically of mixed European and Indian ancestry. They roved the territory hunting cattle for their lucrative hide and tallow.

Today gauchos are an iconic symbol of freedom, daring and adventure, much like the America cowboy. Horses are so fundamental to Uruguayan culture that one even appears on the national coat of arms.

If the horse could be considered the Uruguayan national animal, then football is the country’s national sport. The nation has won two FIFA World Cups, in 1930 and 1950, and has triumphed in more Copas America than any other nation.

For a smaller country, Uruguay is a major player on the global stage. The nation’s approach to sustainability and renewable energy has made it a world leader. What’s more, its successful management of the Covid-19 pandemic has had an indelible and positive impact in the region.

It is only recently that Uruguayans have been learning about their indigenous roots. As a result, Charrúa culture is experiencing a renaissance.

5 reasons to do business in Uruguay

  1. Pro-investment policies
    The government is continually developing policies to make investing in Uruguay simple. Attractive legal and tax incentives make doing business highly appealing, as does a stable political system.
  2. A great business climate
    The nation’s sustained economic growth over the past 15 years is the second highest growth in the region. The country boasts world-class infrastructure with fast, modern highways and reliable, broadband internet.
  3. The gateway to Latin America
    Uruguay is a regional hub with a strategic location. Its founding membership of Mercosur and a trade agreement with Mexico mean Uruguay opens the door to a market of more than 400 million people.
  4. Talent
    Due to a high level of education, technological training and the proven willingness and ability to be flexible, the nation’s human resources are of high quality.
  5. Quality of life
    Montevideo is the city with the best quality of life in Latin America, according to the Mercer 2019 index. Outside of the urban centre, the landscape is characterised by open spaces and clean beaches, making it a scenically desirable place to live.

5 key challenges

  1. 1

    Getting construction permits

    Obtaining construction permits can be frustrating. It takes more than 230 days and requires a long series of inspections and registrations.

  2. 2

    Registering property

    Ranked 164th in the world (out of 185 economies) by the World Bank for ease of registering a property, it can be a bureaucratic challenge.

  3. 3

    Small Market

    Uruguay’s population of around 3.5 million, with more than half residing in Montevideo, makes it a limited market on its own.

  4. 4

    Trading across borders

    Overseas trading is bureaucratic and costly. Uruguay was ranked 150th of 190 countries for trading across borders, due to the high costs associated with international trade.

  5. 5

    Paying taxes

    There are more than 33 corporate tax payments to be made annually. Many employee levies, such as social security and worker’s insurance, are slow to process.