Promoting productive employment in Sub-Saharan Africa: A review of the literature

Adam Szirmai, Mulu Gebreeyesus, Francesca Guadagno & Bart Verspagen

#2013-062

This report provides an overview of current research on and knowledge about employment trends and policies in sub-Saharan Africa. Access to productive employment is seen as essential for poverty reduction and the inclusion of the poor in wider society. Productive employment is characterised by a. Sufficient income to permit workers and their dependents a level of consumption above the poverty line; b. Stability of this income over time (absence of vulnerability; c. Decent working conditions and working hours. The challenge of African economies lies not so much in open unemployment, as in the quality of employment as defined by earnings, vulnerability and working conditions. Much employment is located in the informal sector, where vulnerability is a serious problem. High youth employment in young populations is another serious challenge. Causes of employment problems include: lack of the right kinds of structural change, skill mismatches on the labour market, insufficient attention for SMEs with growth potential and insufficient innovation. The paper discusses a wide range of policies to promote productive employment including trade policies, sectoral policies, innovation policies, population policies and employment and labour market policies. The paper concludes with a discussion of emerging debates and contrasting views with regard to productive employment. It summarises the debates on agricultural led industrial development, resource based industrialisation, emergence of non-traditional exports, employment in labour intensive modern commercial agriculture, the role of manufacturing in growth and employment creation, the exploitation of unlimited supplies of labour, role of FDI and promoting pro-poor innovation in the informal sector.

Key words: productive employment, vulnerability, working conditions, unemployment, structural change, skill mismatches, employment policies

JEL classification : J21, J24, J28, J46, O2, O4

  


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