This Gender Assessment examines human capital endowments, economic opportunities, and voice and agency along the lines of the 2012 World Development Report (World Bank 2012) and the World Bank Group’s Gender Strategy (World Bank 2016). The report subsequently looks at four key areas where gender gaps are pronounced. The first of these deep dives looks at labor market inequalities, including constraints and opportunities for women; the second at gender gaps in the legal and regulatory environment; and the third at risky behaviors and the disproportionate gendered effects of these. The fourth, examines the gendered vulnerabilities that have arisen or become more apparent as a result of recent natural disasters.
This assessment serves to identify inequalities and potential points of entry for policy and programmatic action in Haiti. It builds on a 2002 gender note (World Bank 2002) that considered Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, taking advantage of more-recent data, including surveys designed to understand the impact of COVID-19, and a wealth of literature that has grown around understanding the constraints and limitations, but also the opportunities, associated with gender.
This report engages in a primarily quantitative review of the most recently available data for Haiti pertaining to gender. The assessment takes a broad and deep look at Haiti through a limited data landscape, relying on multiple data sources. This report primarily relies on the Demographic Health Survey (DHS 2010, 2017) conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), but also includes insights from the World Values Survey (2016); the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law reports; and the World Bank’s High-Frequency Phone Surveys conducted in 2020 and 2021 for more-recent evidence. By analyzing these data, we identify gender gaps and inequalities that can serve as opportunities and points of entry for future policy.
- Women in Haiti suffer from poor access to maternal health and subsequently have poor maternal health outcomes. Women have limited access to reproductive health services, such as skilled birth attendants and birthing facilities, and limited control over and agency regarding decisions about their health care.
- According to the 2017 DHS, in Haiti 24 percent of boys were stunted compared to 20 percent of girls. Men have shorter lifespans than women (62 vs. 66 years), are more likely to commit suicide, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as alcohol and tobacco use and gang activity.
- While gender gaps in enrollment persist at lower levels, they have closed or even reversed at the secondary and tertiary levels. Among the small proportion of Haitians ages 15–24 who attend higher education, more girls than boys in rural areas do so. Boys still have higher net attendance rates than girls for primary school in rural areas and boys in urban areas have higher rates of completion for tertiary education. Adult men remain significantly more likely to have attended or completed secondary and tertiary education.
- Women are more likely to be victims of gender-based violence than men, facing security risks both at home and in their communities. Women traders who move goods around the country and provide for markets must contend with security concerns on the road and in marketplaces.
- Gender inequality is highly visible in the lack of voice and agency held by women and the entrenched gender roles of women as caretakers. Women have low levels of decision-making power regarding their own health care, spending on household purchases, and visiting friends and family in Haiti.
Gender inequality in the labor market
- Women are more likely to be unemployed and were more likely to leave the workforce during the pandemic, exacerbating this gap. Before the pandemic, women faced higher unemployment rates; about 23 percent of women in urban areas were unemployed compared to 17 percent of men. During the COVID-19 pandemic women were much more likely to leave the workforce than men, while men were more likely to enter informal work, reflecting a pattern of low labor market attachment among women that was already present and that expanded during the pandemic.
- Women’s access to productive resources in Haiti, including land and financial instruments, is statistically significantly lower than men’s access. Only 8 percent of women in rural areas, where agriculture is the dominant sector, own land, compared to 20 percent of men. Overall rates of financial inclusion in Haiti are extremely low—only about one-third of Haitians have access to a bank account—and the gender gap is around 5 percentage points.
Laws and social norms
- In the legal and regulatory sphere, women in Haiti face significant challenges and explicit discrimination in some areas. Haiti has more-restrictive laws and fewer legal provisions promoting gender equality and promoting equal opportunity for employment than its regional comparators.
- Despite a quota for female representation in lawmaking bodies and public administration, women remain underrepresented in the government. In both the lower and upper houses of Parliament, women represent far less than the constitutional requirement (Article 17.1) of 30 percent of posts in public administration.
- Women’s roles as caregivers and homemakers present substantial barriers to their equal participation in the labor market and society at large. In the multivariate descriptive analysis, women are shown to be less likely to be in the labor force with each additional child in their household, a finding that does not hold for men. That women were more likely to leave the labor force during the pandemic is consistent with a global trend of women taking on more caregiving responsibilities.
- Gender gaps in enrollment have largely reversed and so boys have lower attendance rates than girls. Low enrollments clearly limit continued progress in school—evidenced by lower enrollment ratios in higher levels of education—and also provide opportunities for boys to engage in risky behaviors.
- Many women and men in Haiti believe that wife beating is justified for one reason or another and women are very likely to experience physical, sexual, emotional violence, or a combination by their partners. Reports of emotional and physical violence increased over the period 2010 to 2017 for almost all age groups, while reports of sexual violence decreased for all age groups except among 15–19 years.
- Men and boys in Haiti engage in risky and violent behavior at higher rates than women and girls. Boys are more likely to join gangs, though girls do as well. Men are more likely to use tobacco and alcohol. Male alcohol consumption (as reported by a partner) is one of the single strongest predictors that a woman has experienced domestic violence.
Disaster and risk management
- Existing gender inequalities and the unique health needs of women have implications for Haitians’ differential ability to recover from disasters by gender, further perpetuating and exacerbating these inequalities. Gender inequalities in economic opportunity, limited access to information, limited involvement in disaster management policies, and limited opportunities for decision-making may place women in a position of higher vulnerability against disasters.
- Disasters may put women and girls at risk for societal and domestic violence. Recent data from Haiti additionally show that domestic violence and general insecurity have increased in recent years. Women and girls are also exposed to gender-based violence during aid distribution and in emergency shelters where they are vulnerable due to imbalanced power relations and the inability to physically separate themselves from abusive men.