Although only 15% of Honduran land is arable, 60%
of the labour force is employed in agriculture. The production of bananas
and coffee are major industries. Pineapple, sugar cane and shrimp are
also important export crops. Corn, beans and rice are grown to feed people
living in Honduras. The main areas of production in the manufacturing sector
are food products, furniture, textiles, footwear, chemicals, cement
Each industry has its own wage level. The highest wages are paid in the banana and coffee industries. The service industries pay somewhat less. The lowest wages are earned by workers in agriculture, forestry and fishing. Trade unions are strong in the coffee and banana industries, and in hospitals and schools.
The unemployment rate in Honduras is very high,
and most people live in poverty. Those who live in the countryside
sometimes find seasonal work on large farms or plantations, and
supplement their income by selling produce from their gardens. Often
people leave the countryside and go to live in the cities, where they
hope to find a better life. Men might find work as mechanics,
construction workers or furniture repairers; women usually work
in offices or are in domestic service.
In 1954, workers fought against poor working conditions in what became known as the Great Banana Strike. After they were refused overtime wages for loading a boat on a Sunday, some Honduran banana workers went on strike. They were joined by nearly 30,000 workers at other American-owned enterprises: banana companies, a tobacco plant, a mining company and some clothing factories. The strike lasted for three months and was settled when the workers obtained overtime pay, shorter hours, paid vacations, medical benefits and the right to join a union.
The Honduran economy is vulnerable to global
markets and the fluctuating prices of bananas and coffee, its two
major exports. To strengthen the economy, there have been recent
efforts to diversify the types of export products. Honduras is also
Traditionally, businesses opened early in the morning, closed at noon for a long lunch, then opened again for two or three hours in the late afternoon. Today, however, most businesses are open from about 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and employees take one hour for lunch.