Better Work Haiti has been implementing the first component of the TAICNAR program from 2009 until 2017, while other ILO projects, in particular the ILO-MAST capacity-building project, worked on the second component. As of 2018, with the start of the third phase of the Better Work Haiti project (2018 – 2022), Better Work will also take on several elements of the second component of the TAICNAR program while carrying out activities covering TAICNAR component one. The Better Work program coordinates its work with the Labor Ombudsman and a tripartite Project Advisory Committee (PAC). This Committee meets with Better Work regularly to discuss the activities of the Better Work program. The PAC members represent the private sector, government and worker representatives, and the Labor Ombudsperson in line with the Committee’s HOPE law’s requirements.
Therefore, Better Work follows this two-pronged approach at the country level to improve Haiti’s garment industry’s working conditions and competitiveness. On the one hand, direct factory level interventions allow deep insight into each company`s compliance performance and assist in a tailored way. On the other hand, the program works with the tripartite constituents to address endemic challenges more substantially by bringing stakeholders together, sharing industry data, and offering technical assistance to address compliance challenges and capacity building needs.
In 2019, Better Work celebrated its ten years of presence in Haiti. While the programme had a difficult start due to the devastating earthquake that shocked Haiti in January 2010, the garment industry grew back to be a key pillar of the Haitian economy. As a mandatory programme under the US HOPE legislation to Haiti, garment exporters are required to participate in Better Work as a prerequisite to export their products to the US market. Over the past ten years, Haiti’s garment industry grew significantly, from approximately 20,000 direct employees at the beginning of the Better Work programme to over 51,000 in 2019, with garment exports from Haiti crossing the 1 billion US$ line.
Despite the numerous challenges (Political instability and disruptions, natural disasters, continuity of fuel supplies, cost of energy .etc.), the Haitian garment industry is the largest formal exporting sector and has proven to be resilient. Haitian apparel export grew annually, but the export per job declined. The garment sector pre-COVID-19 crisis employed 56,000 workers. The number of full-time equivalent workers fell by an estimated 25 percent from April to September 2020.
COVID-19-related disruptions in the garment-manufacturing sector reverberate among workers and their families. Analysis of economic impact surveys among a subset of female workers in the sector revealed risks to food security, health, and livelihoods. Nine in ten respondents to a Better Work Haiti survey this summer reported trouble securing the usual amount of food for their household due to income shocks. Significant portions of workers surveyed have concerns about the health of themselves and their family members.