Gender Inequalities in Rural Employment in Ghana

the Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division of FAO

Despite Ghana’s great progress in poverty reduction, an important share of rural men and women in the country still lack decent work opportunities. The orthern part of the country and rural areas in general are of major concern. Rural women in particular face greater difficulties in transforming their labour into more productive employment activities and their paid work into higher and more secure incomes.  Similarly, the young rural population faces barriers in joining the labour market and migration is often a livelihood strategy. Efforts to promote gender equity in labour markets and income generating activities, as well as to support decent employment initiatives in rural areas, are hampered by the lack of comprehensive information on the multiple dimensions of social and gender inequalities, particularly in rural areas. This country profile developed by the Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division (ESW) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) addresses the lack of statistics and contributes to a better understanding of the types and the  degree of existing gender inequalities in rural settings. The profile serves as a policy support tool for integrating and monitoring gender equity and decent rural employment in agriculture, food security, and rural development policies and programs.
The profile of Ghana is part of a policy kit that contains two additional items: 1) an overview of the main incountry legislations and policies related to gender and rural employment; and 2) a policy brief summarizing key gender inequality  issues and policy recommendations.

The quantitative analysis is based on the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS 5) and the Rural Income Generating Activities database (RIGA). Specific methodological considerations are provided throughout the profile and in the methodological note at the end of the report.


Our analysis sheds light on the following issues where policy action is most needed, particularly in rural areas:

1. The northern regions need closer attention. Similarly to other previous assessments of Ghana, we find that the Northern, Upper West and Upper East regions remain the most affected by extreme poverty. In 2005-2006, poverty rates in the Upper West reached 84 percent, in the Upper East, 64 percent, and in Northern 42 percent.  According to the Ghana Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) 2006-2009 report, low productivity and poorly functioning markets for agricultural outputs are among the main causes of rural poverty, particularly in the Northern regions. The Northern regions also have the lowest literacy rates, well below the national average and with discernible gender differences. In the Upper East, for example, 22 percent of women are literate compared to 50 percent of men.
2. The youth population (referred here as those between 15 and 24 years of age) undergo a concerning shortage of employment opportunities. While youth have a high employment rate (94 percent) and represent 19 percent of the total working population in Ghana, they are primarily employed as unpaid agricultural family workers. They also engage in self-employment activities, but with clear gender differences that parallel  the prevalence observed among adults, articularly in the higher proportion of young women engaged in non-farm self-employment activities. Moreover, higher education levels do not always guarantee an entry to higher-paid jobs, and as a matter of fact, there is a higher proportion of unemployed youth with secondary education than with no education achievement in both urban and rural areas (unemployment includes those individuals looking to work). The youth find it hard to compete with the adult population while more skilled jobs are not available. Withal, among the urban unemployed, the prevalence of young women with primary levels of education is lower than that of young men. This may be explained either by  education achievement having a higher  impact  in  young female employment or by the gender division of labor favoring urban young women more than urban men.
3. Gender inequalities in rural employment persist. The agricultural sector is the main employer for both rural women and men; nevertheless, rural women also have high employment participation in wholesale retail, marketing and tourism, as well as in the manufacturing sector. The majority of  rural Ghanaians are selfemployed, either in agriculture or not, and 56 percent of the rural working population has a second job or more. Overall, very few of them engage in paid labour and when opportunities exist, women are at disadvantage: in rural areas, men take part five times more in wage-employment than women. To the contrary, rural women are more likely to be engaged in unpaid family work and in non-agricultural self-employment activities than rural men.
Self-employed workers are more likely to fall under the  low earnings classification, suggesting that selfemployment in rural Ghana, as it is, may not  be  conducive to higher earnings and thus is not a way of overcoming poverty and food insecurity. Of those engaged in rural self-employment activities, 45 percent of men and 57 percent of women described their earnings as “low”. These percentages are even greater  among the self-employed in agriculture, particular for females: 72 percent of self-employed women in agriculture are within the low income classification, compared to 48 percent of their male counterparts. Nevertheless, some categories of self-employment work may be more productive. Education plays a key role for transforming lowincome self-employment activities into higher-income ones, and as for 2005, the majority of workers engaged in self-employment as a main job had not achieved primary education.
4. There is a significant share of female-headed households in Ghana. Female-headed households make 29 percent of the overall households in urban areas and 20 percent of those in rural areas. Poverty rates among female-headed households are lower than those of their male counterparts, and this is particularly true within households in a severe poverty condition. More in-depth analysis is needed to understand this, which might be due to smaller household size and income from remittances. However, female-headed households, particularly those in rural areas, have higher dependency rates. A high dependency rate hampers household capacity to allocate labour to  on-farm actitivies or other income-generating activities. Furthermore, female heads of household in rural Ghana tend to be older and have fewer years of education than male heads of household. This is an issue that requires attention from policy makers as households might adopt negative coping strategies, such as an increased participation of children in productive activities and time burden for women leading to
poor health, aspects which are not always factored in poverty analysis.
5. In Ghana, poor access to land and finance hampers agriculture and rural livelihoods.  Agricultural production in Ghana is characterized by small farms. Due to the small size of most farms, market-oriented activities are limited and the majority of farmers, 77 percent, are involved in subsistence farming. Interestingly,
female-led farms, especially those that are of medium or large size, are more likely to be market-oriented than those held by men of similar size. This fact once again suggests Ghanaian women’s disposition to market activities. Unfortunately, this characteristic is hampered by great gender inequalities in access to land.  Men hold 3.2 times more of the total farms than women, and 8.1 times more of the medium and large-sized farms (of 5 acres or more). 
The data analysis show that rural women are land holders at an older age than men, a fact that may be linked to inheritance  customs in some regions in Ghana. In practice, male chiefs and  heads of the family  are common decisions-makers in regards to land tenure. Even among matrilineal communities, it is male descendants from the matriliny who make these decisions, which often result in lower access to and use of land for women. Another important factor hindering farmers’ potential is their  limited access to finance.  For both males and female farmers, the main source of credit is that financed by relative and friends; however, female farmers rely more heavily on the informal networks (family, friends, other farmers, and moneylenders) while male farmers,
especially those carrying out market oriented activities, have more access to formal credit from the public sector.
6. Low educational attainment and gender and rural-urban inequalities in education are concerning. Despite education playing a fundamental role in determining individuals’ ability to access better labour opportunities and escaping poverty, education attainment in the country is extremely low, and with large
gender and rural-urban inequalities. In rural areas, only 29 percent of women are literate compared to 52 percent of men. In addition, an exceptionally high percentage of rural women, but also men, in the country have no primary education (71 and 59 percent respectively). Access to secondary education for women and men remains low, particularly in rural areas, where the share of men and women with secondary education is 13 percent and 3 percent respectively. Notwithstanding substantial progress achieved in terms of primary education for girls and boys, the secondary enrollment rates in rural areas for males and females is just over 30 percent. Consequently, the Ghanaian workforce is not a skilled one: about 53 percent of the rural workforce in Ghana has
no primary education. Urban-to-rural disparities within the working population are also alarming as 30 percent of employed urban women have a secondary or higher education level, compared to only 3 percent of employed rural females. These differences are concerning as low educational levels hinder access to better job opportunities in the labour market, and hamper more profitable entrepreneurship. That said, other forms of education have greater uptake especially among the time-constraint. A clear example is  vocational training which is popular among the rural self-employed. Rural self-employed women are major
users as 81 percent acquire some type of vocational training, compared to 25 percent of self-employed males. However, vocational training for women often consists in an  adaptation of domestic activities in agricultural processing, and not in an increased access to agricultural extension or other initiatives  that increase their literacy and marketing skills.
7. Unbalanced distribution of domestic work between men and women.  In Ghana, both men and women engage in a number of productive and domestic activities. Our findings reveal that there is a wide gender gap in the time allocated to domestic activities. The average amount of time that women spend in domestic activities is greater than that of men, even if women spend as much as them in productive activities. While 65 percent of men spend from 0 to 10 hours per week on domestic activities, 89 percent of women spend 10 hours per week or more. The most time-engaging activities for women are cooking and taking care of household members. The young rural population, between 15 and 24 years of age, parallel the  overall trends as young women combine greater domestic and productive workloads compared to their male counterparts: 63 percent of young rural males spend between 0 and 10 weekly hours on domestic work, whereas 88 percent of young rural females spend 10 hours per week or more on domestic work. This bespeaks that the major gender inequalities in labor allocation in the household are not changing at all. For this reason, women are less likely to be able to take full advantage of economic opportunities, to respond to changing market opportunities, and to participate in income-generating activities. Time constraints also hamper women’s ability to develop their capabilities through education and skills development, which could enhance economic returns and wellbeing. Child work remains a pressing issue in Ghana, particularly in the informal rural sector. An estimated 35 percent of children of ages 7-11 work for 30 or more hours per week, while the share of children of ages 11 to 14 that work for this amount of hours is higher, about 40 percent. In addition, children often work in their households, where they engage in activities that are often not considered as “work”, taking care of younger siblings, fetching water, collecting firewood, cooking, cleaning and performing other household activities. Parallel to the trends among adults and the youth, the analysis finds that there is a striking gender disparity in the amount that rural children dedicated to domestic activities. While 80 percent of boys aged 7-11 dedicate 10 or less weekly hours to household chores, more than half of girls of this age range dedicate more than 10, up to 50 weekly hours or more in these activities. Greater gender disparities are observed among older children of 12-9
14 years of age. It is clear that girls remain noticeably more involved in housekeeping chores, indicating how gender determines the allocation of roles and responsibilities, even at a young age. In terms of child labor the prevalence for children aged 7 to 14 is 13 percent, but data on the rural and urban
shares of child labour underline a significant rural-urban gap: the prevalence of urban child labour is 4 percent, while the prevalence of rural child labour is 17 percent.


The recent discovery of offshore oil represents a potential new source of income as well as an opportunity to overcome persisting structural weaknesses in the Ghanaian economy. Reduced aid as a consequence of having achieved middle-income status in 2011 will press Ghana to focus on key poverty issues. Given the key findings of this profile, some policy actions could be the following: Specific policies and mechanisms need to be put in place in order to address the regional differences in Ghana, aiming to agricultural and industrial sector investments to offset the impacts of low levels of productivity. These plans should not fail to recognize the importance of female agricultural producers and how their limited access to productive assets and land hamper their ability to undertake long-term investments in agricultural modernization.
There is an urgent need for increasing male and female farmers’ access to credit and savings through more accessible and affordable public and private finance mechanisms, which would allow them more access to land markets, seeds, fertilizers, and machinery. An innovative program should be put in place
with focus on the rural areas and the farming communities.
Rural women should have the same rights and opportunities than men in accessing and using natural resources, land in particular.  Local awareness and support, and women’s participation in decisionmaking, are crucial for the realization of these rights. The high levels of dependency rates that characterize female-headed households speak of a  de facto headship situation, produced by adult male migration. Addressing  female-headed households’
vulnerability through  cash transfer programs alleviate some of  their  dependency burden and  help decrease child labor.
Similarly, promoting women’s participation in farmer organizations and women’s groups are necessary to develop women’s skills, broaden their networks, and boost their self-confidence. Policy makers should recognize women’s  high participation in  non-agricultural  self-employment activities as  an opportunity to increase rural employment and  for strengthening collective action, specifically within women’s groups.
Communication campaigns should be put in place in order to address the gender disparities in domestic work allocation within households. With support from civil society groups, attitudes towards men and female roles need to be challenged and changed.
Greater emphasis should be devoted to building capacity and providing employment for the youth, particularly in rural areas where income-generating activities are less available. In this regard, two strategies to employ the growing young population could be: (1) a more productive agricultural sector, and; (2) the development of other sectors in rural areas.
Low education attainment needs to be addressed.  A more in-depth understanding of  rural-urban differences is needed, such as the different constraints that  men and women face for studying. Incentives to keep children in school include better schooling services and the provision of meals in 10 schools.  The uptake of vocational training shows that a great opportunity exist for policy makers to increase the adult population’s education.
Child work and child labor  can be reduced by supporting households’ incomes and the adoption of time-saving technologies in agriculture. Higher paying employment and social protection mechanisms in rural areas can effectively reduce children’s time in productive activities. At the same time, time
saving technologies can reduce the demand of children’s time in productive activities. To reduce the risk of accidents and illness, policies and programs should  address the working conditions in agricultural labor, particularly those in the mineral extraction, timber, and cocoa industries, and of other major export crops that employ the rural population.

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