Most Haitians do not have formal jobs. Unemployment and underemployment are rampant. Some estimates suggest that two-thirds of the country's 3.6 million workers are without consistent work. Many Haitians survive through subsistence farming rather than looking for jobs in the overcrowded urban areas. Legal protection does exist for those Haitians employed in the formal sector. Workers have the right of association and collective bargaining. Additionally, the labor code protects workers' unions from recrimination by employers. The country's minimum wage is 70 gourdes per day, equivalent to about US$1.70.
in 2001, 56 percent of the Haitian population (4.4 million persons of a total population of 8.1 million) lived below the extreme poverty line of US$1 PPP per person, per day. It was estimated that for every ten persons, 7.6 are considered poor; that is, they do not receive US$2 PPP per person, per day, and that 40 percent of the poorest population groups have access to only 5.9 percent of total income, while the most affluent 20 percent control 68 percent of this income. Consequently, 80 percent of the population controls a mere 32 percent of income, while it is projected that 2 percent of the wealthiest segment controls 26 percent of total income.
Haiti was reported to have regressed on the human development scale, falling from position 146 in 2000 to 153 in 2005. The IHSI, in conjunction with the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Center [Centre Latino Américain de Démographie CELADE] and the UNFPA, estimated life expectancy at birth to be 58.1 percent (2000-2005), based on data taken from the 2003 survey. Other indices, such as the gradual increase in deforestation, infant malnutrition, and the annual average decline in real per capita income and average consumption, point to a deterioration in living conditions.
Per capita GDP is less than US$ 400 per year (an amount that has not changed in real terms since the 1970s). In addition to high unemployment, Haiti also lacks the skilled labor necessary to expand its economy. A brain drain has occurred, and many of the country's skilled workers leave Haiti for better economic opportunities abroad. Annually, thousands of Haitians cross the border to work in the factories of the Dominican Republic. The income they send back to Haiti is significant. Beyond the island of Hispaniola, political turmoil has resulted in many of Haiti's most valuable workers emigrating to the United States and Canada. The 500,000 Haitians living in New York City and the 380,000 in Miami represent a loss of training and expertise that Haiti has been unable to replace.
In addition to being the one of the world's most densely populated countries, Haiti is also one of the poorest. The annual per capita income is about US$450, and most of the population (60 percent) faces underemployment. In recent decades, working and living conditions have been so poor that emigration, often by any means possible, has become a popular avenue of escape. About one out of every eight Haitians presently lives outside the country's borders.
The international community has donated heavily to the development of Haiti. Programs to feed, educate, and employ Haitians are funded by various international organizations. Since 1973, the United States has been Haiti's largest donor. Between 1995 and 2003, the United States contributed more than US$850 million to Haiti's development. It also pledged, in 2004, an additional US$230 million in aid through 2006. Although monetary aid has temporarily eased suffering in Haiti, it has failed to significantly alter Haiti's developmental trajectory in the past.
Haiti has an underfunded and largely ineffective social insurance program. Employers are responsible for contributing between 2 and 6 percent of their employees' annual incomes to the social insurance fund. Because most Haitians do not have regular employers, however, this program neglects a large portion of the population. With similar limitations, Haiti has benefits for injured workers, the disabled, and pregnant women.
The decapitalization with which many different actors of Haitian society (individuals, families, businesses, organizations and institutions) are faced has undermined the level of base capital on which the well-being and the future of any country rests. Thus, the steady deterioration of living conditions of the most deprived strata has shaken the very foundation of socioeconomic life and handicapped the capacity of Haitian society to take advantage of its entrepreneurs and generate the growth that it so needs to ensure its future development. As a result of this constant deterioration, the underprivileged sectors of Haitian society find themselves in a situation very similar to that of populations that have suffered armed conflict.
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