Urbanization and female migration in Ghana -livelihood strategies for young women working in the urban informal economy in Accra

Start date: 28 September, 2012 End date: 23 November, 2012 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A19457 Countries: Ghana Institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Grant recipient: Laura Møllebro Total grant: 15,000 DKK



In recent years trade unions in developing countries have extended their attention beyond the formal sector to also include informal economic activities that are not registered by the state. In Ghana the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has attempted to create linkages between workers in the formal and the informal economies, by inviting the latter to join the organization on a partial membership status. This means that the informal workers are allowed to contribute to union savings schemes, despite the lack of a matching employer contribution. In Ghana the main sectors of the economy are dominated by unregulated services and enterprises and 82% of the population is employed in the informal economy. Of these, approximately 80% are women. As informal activities are not protected within the framework of labor legislation or social protection, the main goal of TUC and other trade unions that organize workers in the informal economy is to protect and promote the conditions and rights of workers and to improve social and economic standards.   
Through an ethnographic study of Agbogbloshie market in Accra this thesis examines the associational life and the social networks contained therein. The thesis examines the convergence between formal organization in trade unions within the setting of informal activities at the market place. It furthermore seeks to clarify how associational life and social networks that already exist at the market affects the social order of female traders in the informal economy. Within the context of Agbobloshie market, working conditions and livelihood strategies are investigated in the conceptual frame of the informal economy and the intersecting social relations of gender, age, wealth, occupation and ethnicity in an urban setting.
The market reflects various systems of dominations that create a very strong social order within the market. Certain positions of power are negotiated through the membership of associations and displayed in wealth, through the public display of money and time. The associations already form a social and economic safety net for the members, through empowerment and the possibility of financial support and loans, which is not normally accessible for workers in the informal economy. But in a societal context the market traders are low in the hierarchy and stand outside social protection. The trade unions can offer the workers in the informal economy a voice in the public debate and improved livelihoods through occupational training. But associational life in the market differs from the idea of organizing in trade unions because it does not build on the idea of unity and solidarity.