Better Work Haiti

Launched: 2009

About the programme: During the mid to late 2000s, the US Congress passed the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE and HOPE II) Acts, which extended duty-free treatment for textiles, apparel and other goods; these benefits were extended until 2020 under the Haitian Economic Lift (HELP) Act. In order to benefit from HOPE and HOPE II, the government was required to establish an independent Labor Ombudsman appointed by the Haitian President, in consultation with the private sector and the trade unions. Haiti was also required to work with the ILO to develop a programme to assess and promote compliance with core labour standards and national labour law in those factories benefiting from tariff advantages. Referred to in the legislation as the Technical Assistance Improvement and Compliance Needs Assessment and Remediation Program (TAICNAR), Better Work Haiti is implementing TAICNAR, in collaboration with the tripartite HOPE II Commission.

Better Work Haiti covers all factories exporting to the US market.

About the industry: Following a boom in the apparel industry in Haiti in the period leading to the early 1980s, and the subsequent decline of the sector since the mid 1980s, the industry has struggled with natural disasters, political instability and competition from Asia in its effort to bring investment and jobs back to the country. Even before the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island, Haiti was reported to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of the population living below the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty. Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, making them vulnerable to the natural disasters to which the country is prone. In a PBS report filed after the earthquake, the apparel industry was identified as a lifeline for Haitian workers.

The HOPE and HELP legislative acts, which enable the Haitian textile and garment industry to benefit from customs exemptions, has succeeded in creating interest from American buyers to source from Haiti, increasing production and creating domestic jobs. The combination of increased duty-free access to the US market and Haiti’s ample supply of young workers helped ensure that by 2009, Haiti had become the 17th-largest apparel supplier to the United States, with exports around US$ 424 million. The apparel sector now accounts for three-quarters of Haitian exports and nearly one-tenth of GDP.

Funding: See a current list of all programme donors here >>

This post is also available in: French

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