The situation of the youth in Haiti 

Of the 1.6 million Haitian youth aged 15–24, only 13 percent are content with their lives. More than half of 20-year-olds have not completed secondary education and nearly half of youth in the labor market are unemployed. This paper investigates protective and risk factors predisposing youth to positive and negative behaviors. These factors, including poverty, gender, education, labor market, migration, family, health, and violence, are examined by the use of statistics and probability models based on Haiti’s first household living conditions survey. Key findings show that female youth need special attention ,because they are more likely than their male peers to drop out of school and to be unemployed or inactive. Role models, guidance, expectations, and contacts in the form of parents or household heads are decisive factors in keeping youth in school and to some extent in their finding employment. In addition, domestic migration has a positive impact on the probability of being employed and inactive (positive self-selection), while marriage, drug abuse, and domestic violence increase the probability of dropping out of school.

Youth represent a large proportion of human capital in developing countries. Some attend school, participate in social and cultural events, enjoy support from their families, and have plans and hopes for their future while others do not. In Haiti, only 13 percent of youth feel satisfied with their lives, according to data from ECVH in 2001.2 A series of factors predisposes a large proportion of youth to poverty, school dropout, unemployment, early sexual initiation, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, sexual and physical abuse, crime and violence, substance abuse and drug dealing, and social exclusion.3 Indicators for Haiti on most of these factors are among the poorest in the Latin American and Caribbean region (LAC) and some are worse than those of African countries with the same level of GDP per capita (World Bank 2002). Dictatorship, military intervention, and lack of stability have been determining factors in Haiti’s social and economic development history. Haiti’s history, combined with the country’s social and poverty indicators, show that youth should be seen not as a problem, but as a product of the family and community environment and therefore should be treated as a potential solution to Haiti’s development challenges.

Data reveal that over 20 percent of the Haitian population is between 15 and 24 years old and 49 percent of households live in extreme poverty. Poor households contain more youth than average and youth are overrepresented in the capital city of Port-au- Prince. The public education system, where in place, and many private schools, supply low quality education, and corporal punishment is widely used. Illiteracy rates are high and many young people are not in school because they need to contribute to household income or work in the household. Nearly half of Haitian youth are not enrolled in school and of those participating in the labor market, 47.4 percent are unemployed, the highest proportion in LAC. In particular, young women experience high unemployment and inactivity rates and often face wage discrimination. One way of coping with unemployment and lack of opportunities is for youth to migrate, either abroad or to another region or city in Haiti.

In many households absence of the father or both parents, drug abuse, pressure for female adolescents to bear children, and domestic violence contribute to the challenges young people face on a daily basis. For example, only one in three children (aged 0–14) in Haiti lives with both biological parents. The lack of health services, information, family counseling, etc., is negatively affecting youth health.4 Contraceptive use is among the lowest in the Western Hemisphere and HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic levels—the highest incidence outside Africa. Of the age group 15–19 years old, 5.2 percent has HIV/AIDS. However, there are clear indications that the situation is now improving and Haiti has been recognized for its progress in scaling up treatment. Teenage pregnancies  and HIV/AIDS disproportionately affect youth from low-income families. Moreover, teenage mothers account for 8 percent of all births and contribute to Haiti’s high fertility rate of 4.2 children per woman in 2003.5 Violence is part of everyday life in Haiti. Aggressive behavior is frequently linked to the inability to meet social expectations or provide for the family, which many youth experience (e.g., Moser and Bronkhorst 1999). Most females in Haiti have experienced some form of violence. Sexual abuse of girls is highly prevalent: 46 percent of all girls have been abused (World Bank 2002). Of these victims, 33 percent were girls aged 5–9, and 43 percent were girls aged 10–14. In Haiti a blind eye is often turned to such issues as incest and domestic violence.

Jeugd in Haiti

Earthquake Haiti 2010

Girls on the market not in school

Typical bus

The future of Haiti

Fabulous views

More future for the country