In a country of roughly 9 million people, only 55,000 people are employed by the State, which is considered to be the biggest employer in the country. Unemployment in Haiti is an epidemic that must be put in the same category as a virulent outbreak, like AIDS or the H1N1 virus.
By any conservative measure, there is not more than 5% of the working population that is actually employed. Many people in Haiti are self-employed in what is considered a booming “chomeko” industry—an industry, in which bluffers, racketeers and imposters are robbing those at the very bottom. People all over the country are involved in simple survival activities. It is a disgrace that for all the jockeying for power currently taking place in Haiti, no one has found the courage to advocate for a remedy to this devastating disease. The Haitian elected officials, by their constitutional mandate, are supposed to guarantee the safety and the pursuit of happiness of the population, and their continual inaction to create sustainable job innovation is in bold contradiction to that mandate. Yeah.
I find it incomprehensible for a country known as a net importer could not find a method to put its population to work. Haitians prefer to live an oppressive life in neighboring countries than stay in the hell-like conditions at home. For those who think unemployment is something that most Haitians enjoyed, I must advise you to look into the life of those in the bateys in the Dominican Republic, where the average pay is 600 pesos for a hard-working day. Take a look in the Bahamas, where Haitians are pretty much homeless and living on garbage—I do not even have to paint the picture of those who risk everything on board of wooden boats for the coast of Florida. Unemployment is destroying the very core of the Haitian identity.
There are those who would argue that the reason unemployment is so high in Haiti is because of the low rate of literacy in the country, in combination with greed from the corrupted political elite. I would argue that no one is born with knowledge, but almost everyone is born ready to work, and if we create the opportunities—we will find the personnel to do them.
Haiti is at a crossroad where it must set some clear priorities for the next few years. They must be priorities that not only “Mr. LeBon” would understand, but also “Ti Marie” could clearly explain to her illiterate family members. Those priorities can not only serve the deep pockets of those, who already have the key to the national treasure, but they must also satisfy the mouth of those who can’t even find access to potable water. Those priorities must not be told to those who are on the outskirt of the cities, but that the peasants have a say as to what they should be. We are at a moment of great inclusion, and Haitians from all corners of the world must be included in the future of Haiti. The days of a few dictating the future of the many should forever be a thing of our past. A better employment policy, would give every Haitian access through the door of prosperity and dignity.
But first, we must not be settled for any kind of employment. In June of this year, National Public Radio ran a little story titled: In Haiti, a low-wage job is better than none. My answer to such a title is simply that in Haiti, not all low-wage jobs are good for the country. We are not trying to remain the poorest country in the hemisphere, so in building our new country we want something close to full employment, but most importantly we want jobs that pay a decent wage.
When people come to us and start telling us how good HOPE II would be for all Haitians, we would answer them that yes it is a start, but we must not stop there. We should let them know that we understand the hypocrisy of cheap labor versus meaningful employment. As an oppressed people, we know too well the symptoms of exploitation. For that we are asking for more than just sweatshop work.
A full employment policy would have to offer a minimum wage on which a family could easily live off without depending on others’ charity. We would need employment that would not only require our physical strength, but also one that would allow us to grow our intellect; employment that would not only look out for the profit of the “patron”, but also for the welfare of the employee. In the modern Haiti, a job incapable of guaranteeing the employee dignity is a job not worth having.
We are capable of building such a nation with such a dignified workforce. We must start by understanding our needs, and how we can meet our own demands. Haiti is on the brink of rising behind a new horizon, but this time we must be stern in what we ask, and work hard to get what we need.
Full employment is doable by investing in Agro-industrial products, renewable energy, healthcare, national mobility, modernized construction, reforestation, civism, and above all a contemporary educational system. Before the end of the first quarter of this century, it will be possible for every Haitian who wants a job to get a decent job.
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