Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Haiti

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Haiti, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2005:2,271,815
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2005:29.0
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2005:32.2
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2005:26.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:11
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%):
Net primary enrollment rate (%):
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2005:81.2
Survival rate to grade 5 (%):
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:7/19/2007
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Haiti work on family farms and in the informal sector, such as in street vending. A 2007 household survey, which was carried out by the research firm Macro International Inc. and funded by USDOL, found that more than one-quarter of the sampled workers involved in farming in one department in Haiti are children, primarily contributing to the production of pistachio, corn, peas, millet, sugarcane, manioc, and rice.

The most common form of work for children in Haiti is domestic service. The practice of sending children, particularly girls, from poor rural areas to work as domestic servants for relatively richer families is common. While some of these children, referred to as "restaveks," are cared for and receive an education, many are trafficked into forced labor and abusive situations. Such children receive no schooling; are sexually exploited and physically abused; and are unpaid, undocumented, and unprotected. It is estimated that up to 300,000 children work under the restavek system in Haiti. A requirement to pay a salary to domestic workers 15 years and older encourages employers to dismiss the restaveks before they reach that age, which in turn contributes to a large population of street children in Haiti. There are an estimated 2,500 street children who live in the capital, many of whom are former domestic servants; it has been estimated that this number may have grown to 3,000 children after many destructive storms impacted Haiti in 2008. Children on the streets work washing car windows, as vendors, as beggars, and also in prostitution.

In addition to internal trafficking, children are also trafficked from Haiti to the Dominican Republic. Haitian children trafficked to the Dominican Republic work in domestic service, sex tourism, and agriculture, and they often live in poor conditions. Haitian nationals who migrate to the Dominican Republic or Dominican children of Haitian descent often lack citizenship or personal identification and are consequently more vulnerable to exploitive labor situations. Girls are also trafficked from the Dominican Republic to Haiti for commercial sexual exploitation.

Haiti continues to experience a lack of public safety. The poor rural economy, which has been further devastated by natural disasters, has created a major exodus to urban areas. Children are involved with armed groups and work as porters, spies, messengers, and combatants. Children of extremely poor families are especially vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups and have been forced to participate in illegal activities and subjected to rape.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for work in industrial, agricultural, or commercial enterprises in Haiti is 15 years, while the minimum age for domestic service is 12 years. However, there are no legal penalties for employing children in domestic labor as restaveks. The minimum age for work as an apprentice is 14 years, and a medical exam of the child is required. Children ages 15 to 18 years must obtain a work authorization from the Ministry of Labor. Employing a child without a work authorization is punishable by fines. Children are prohibited from night work in industrial jobs, and minors (of undefined age) are prohibited from hazardous work.

The law prohibits the forced labor of adults and children. The law also prohibits the corruption of youth under the age of 21 years, including by prostitution, with penalties ranging from 6 months to 3 years of imprisonment. Child trafficking is illegal, as is recruiting children for sexual exploitation, pornography, and illicit activities. There are no penalties for trafficking, although there are laws prohibiting and penalizing slavery and kidnapping.

The law sets the minimum age for military service at 18 years, but in 1995, the military forces were disbanded by presidential order.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, through the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR), is responsible for enforcing child labor laws. IBESR and the Haitian National Police's Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) take the lead on anti-child trafficking efforts, and BPM is responsible for investigating crimes against children, which include trafficking. BPM monitors the movement of children crossing into the Dominican Republic. However, BPM does not investigate restavek or child trafficking cases. According to USDOS, an absence of governmental institutions, the lack of capacity to adequately monitor borders, and the lack of a well-trained and equipped national police force have inhibited the Government from effectively addressing child trafficking.

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Ministry of Social Affairs provides minimal assistance to street children. The Government refers victims of trafficking to NGOs and social welfare agencies that provide return and reintegration services. The Government of Haiti is participating in a USD 290,000 project to eradicate and prevent the worst forms of child labor, funded by the Government of Brazil and implemented by ILO-IPEC.

The Government participates in a number of projects to address child trafficking. In one such project, funded by USDOS, IOM is working with NGOs to provide shelter, protection, and services to child trafficking victims, specifically restaveks from Port-au-Prince. The Government is also participating in a USD 1 million project funded by USAID and implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) to strengthen legislation and law enforcement associated with trafficking. Additionally, USDOS is supporting a USD 200,000 project also implemented in Haiti by PADF to prevent trafficking across the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

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