March 3, 2011—Haiti and its people will have little opportunity to recover from last year’s earthquake or advance out of the persistent poverty that has plagued the nation without real efforts to create jobs that pay a living wage, according to a snapshot cost-of-living study organized by the Solidarity Center.
In a unique survey format, export-apparel workers in Port-au-Prince interviewed their colleagues to identify overall cost-of-living and earnings levels. They were told that Haitian workers find it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to provide for themselves and their families. Since the January 12, 2010, earthquake, the cost of living has increased while the minimum wage has remained the same.
"The Haitian government's inability to help workers to earn sufficient wages perpetuates the cycle of poverty,” said Patrick Numas, general secretary of the General Independent Organization of Haitian Workers (OGITH). “Haitians want to work and to be able to take care of their families. Yet they cannot live—much less move on from last year’s disasters—on the misery-level wages they currently receive.”
Average monthly expenses for workers in the capital’s industrial park were 29,971 Haitian gourdes (about $749). Based on a standard 48-hour, six-day work week, an employee would need to make at least 1,152 gourdes, or about $29, per day to earn a living wage.
The minimum wage in Haiti is about $5 (200 gourdes) per day. However, the minimum wage for workers in industrial zones set up for export processing is about $3 (125 gourdes) per day.
“Haiti needs jobs—but Haitians need jobs that do not leave them destitute,” said Molly McCoy, acting director, Americas region, at the Solidarity Center. “New processing plants are not the silver bullet for Haiti or its people if they do not pay a living wage or treat their workers with dignity. Our union partners welcome new job opportunities for Haitian workers and look forward to the day when all Haitians can work for the benefit of their families and help Haiti recover from a year of disasters and centuries of poverty.”
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