Child Labor in Haiti or Restavek

The term used for children with this arrangement is restavek (one who stays).


Haiti suffers the reputation as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Many Haitian families cannot afford the care of their own children, so they send them to live with rich families as unpaid domestics or Restaveks.

Sometimes a restavek will live with a family, who can afford to educate them and give them adequate living conditions. If not, will use the floor as their bed and be subjected to sexual abuse.

Restaveks are domestic slaves, and the majority of them are girls, 80% of them. They perform household chores, not for pay, but in return for shelter, food, clothing, and education, usually of inferior quality. Even under optimal conditions, restaveks have inferior status in the household, even with peers and younger.

In Haitian culture, extended families living under one roof are common. If the child's family cannot care for them, sending them off to a distant relation is not frowned on. Since 1804, rich black and mulatto elites have used children as unpaid domestics. However, the United Nations looks upon restavek as an altered form of slavery.

Restaveks toil under intolerable work conditions in return for lodging, food, and clothing, often of the worst kind. Upon reaching fifteen, the law requires they receive wages. It is then they are kicked out, forced to fend for themselves. International donors and non-government organizations in Haiti are hard at work to put a stop to the abuse of restavek children.

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