Country Listing

Haiti Table of Contents



In the 1980s, public assistance continued to be limited. The government provided pensions to some retired public officials and military officers, but it did not guarantee them to civil servants. A social-insurance system for employees of industrial, commercial, and agricultural firms provided pensions at age fifty-five, after twenty years of service, and compensation for total incapacity, after fifteen years of service. A system of work-injury benefits also covered private and public employees, providing partial or total disability compensation. These programs were administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs. In general, however, the dearth of social programs offered by the government forced most Haitians to rely mainly on their families and on the services provided by nongovernmental organizations. As has been true in so many other areas of life, Haitians have cultivated self-reliance in the face of hardship, scarcity, and the inadequacy of existing institutions.


Among works on Haitian society in English, James G. Leyburn's The Haitian People continues to be a useful overview. The introduction, by Sidney Mintz, to the second edition is one of the most lucid analyses of the Duvalier regimes. Another classic is Melville J. Herskovits's ethnography, Life in a Haitian Valley, detailing the life of peasants and townspeople in the 1930s. More recent analyses of Haitian society and economics include Mats Lundahls's Peasants and Poverty: A Study of Haiti, which views Haitian economic decline in terms of overpopulation, environmental degradation, and governmental passivity over the course of Haiti's history. A contrasting analysis can be found in Alex Dupuy's Haiti in the World Economy: Class, Race, and Underdevelopment Since 1970, which examines the country's social and economic problems primarily in terms of Haiti's relations with foreign powers.

The volume of essays edited by Charles R. Foster and Albert Valdman, Haiti--Today and Tomorrow: An Interdisciplinary Study, provides a useful discussion of many aspects of Haitian society in the 1980s, including issues of language, education, religion, cultural orientation, male-female relationships, migration, and the economy. Simon Fass's Political Economy in Haiti: The Drama of Survival is the first detailed examination of the urban lower class. The work of David Nicholls, especially his From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour, and National Independence in Haiti, provides an analysis of political and social ideologies through the course of Haitian history. For an overview of Haitian immigrants in the United States, the chapter on Haitians in David W. Haines's Refugees in the United States: A Reference Handbook is helpful. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1989