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The Market System for Construction Labor in Port au Prince

February, 2010

On January 12, 2010, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude hit the island of Haiti, approximately 25 km west of Port au Prince. The Haitian government estimated that up to 230,000 died country-wide in the quake, and another 300,000 were injured. According to the UN, approximately 800,000 have been displaced in Port au Prince, many of whom are living in spontaneous urban camps. Approximately 38% of all buildings in greater Port au Prince have been damaged or destroyed. WFP has distributed food to more than 2.5 million people in Port au Prince and outlying areas.

This EMMA study was conducted about four weeks after the earthquake, focusing on the beans market system and the earthquake-affected population in Port-au-Prince. This EMMA looked at the opportunities for earthquake-affected populations to gain employment in the construction sector.

Prior to the earthquake, construction had been identified as an area of potential job growth and a priority sector for the government, however there was a mismatch between skills available in the labor market and jobs available. Professional, skilled, and semi-skilled workers were all in demand, but this demand was often filled by foreigners, in particular workers from the Dominican Republic. Formal training for the construction sector was provided through universities, numerous technical schools and a few NGO training centers. However, about 40-50% of workers were trained through apprenticeships and on the job training, for periods up to two years. Quality of education varied widely across formal training options, with some estimates indicating that students were learning only 60-70% of the skills needed. Professionalism and other non-technical competencies, such as project management, were also regularly noted as being in high demand, but difficult to find.

With all four of the universities known for training engineers and many technical schools destroyed in the earthquake, the options for quickly training professional, skilled, and semi-skilled workers are severely limited. A rough estimate indicates that 100,000 people will need to be trained to ensure Haitians have access to the new jobs that are expected to crop up in the construction sector as the country rebuilds. Universities, training centers, and informal training mechanisms must be immediately supported to “build back better” if Haitians are to benefit from the increased employment opportunities in their country.

Recommendations for demand-side responses include improving communication to the public on government support for rubble removal,property rights, building permits and zoning; improving access to credit for construction for both households and businesses; and building social housing. Supply-side responses recommended include NGO-run short-term skills trainings targeting future masons, carpenters and electricians; physical rehabilitation of training institutions; capacity building of management, faculty, and staff of training institutions; and organizing apprenticeships and facilitation of trainees' entry into the market. Finally, the report recommends a number of interventions intended to improve job placement services and improving construction-related laws and regulations.

Report authors: 
not specified
Download Report (180.35 KB pdf)