Africa's Evolving Employment Trends

March 1, 2018 - Author: Yeboah, Kwame, and T. S. Jayne

Yeboah, Kwame, and T. S. Jayne. 2018. Africa's Evolving Employment Trends, Journal of Development Studies, 54(5)

Using nationally representative data from nine countries, we document demographic and employment trends in Africa’s workforce based on full-time labour equivalents (FTE). The FTE approach takes account of individuals’ multiple jobs throughout the year and is therefore likely to give more accurate estimates of the pace of structural transformation. Since 2000, Africa has experienced a sharp decline in the share of its labour force in farming. Because of the seasonal nature of farming, the share of the labour force remaining in farming is substantially lower using the FTE approach than when examined in terms of individuals’ primary sources of employment or total numbers of jobs. Using the FTE approach, the share of the labour force in farming ranges across the nine countries from 35 per cent in Ghana to 54 per cent in Rwanda. Employment in off-farm segments of agri-food systems is expanding rapidly in percentage terms, but in terms of absolute numbers, non-farm activities are by far the major source of employment outside of farming. Contrary to widespread perceptions, the mean age of adults engaged primarily in farming is not rising – in fact it is falling slightly in some countries and remains stable in most others. The pace at which the labour force is shifting out of agriculture is strongly and positively tied to the rate of lagged farm productivity growth. Given the unprecedented growth in the number of young Africans entering the labour market, an effective youth employment strategy in most African countries will rely on massive job expansion, which in turn will rely on the multiplier effects of agricultural productivity growth. Strategies that raise the returns to labour in farming therefore remain crucial for achieving rapid economic transformation and may constitute the core of effective youth employment strategies.


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