YOUNG WOMEN AND THE FUTURE WORLD OF WORK
Young Women and the Future World of Work in Ghana & Senegal
Young women in Ghana and Senegal face significant barriers in the world of work due to social prejudices, a lack of access to the right education and resources, limited opportunities for career advancement, unfavorable workplace conditions, and ineffective government policies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and underlined women’s vulnerability in the labor market, while also accelerating the demand for workers with advanced digital skills. There is a serious risk that women will fall even further behind in terms of access to the world of work if the skills mismatch is not resolved.
This four-part series takes a closer look at young women’s employment challenges in Ghana and Senegal and proposes corrective actions to minimize inequalities and strengthen young women’s skills for tomorrow’s work environment. The series is based on two case studies of young women’s employment challenges in Ghana and Senegal conducted by ACET in 2020, where researchers collected life stories from the childhood, education history, and career paths of young women to identify turning points in their interaction with the world of work.
In Ghana and Senegal, as in the rest of the continent, young women in particular face significantly worse working conditions, limited opportunities for career advancement, and a lack of access to critical resources. Research sheds light on the kind of inequalities women face in education and the labor market, and the way development plans and policy actions have sought to address them.
Many common traditional gender barriers persist within the predominantly patriarchal societies in Ghana and Senegal. Gender roles are rigid, with women bearing the burden of reproductive work and unpaid care work in households and not having equal access to opportunities—including access to education, capital, and land. Young women share their personal experiences about the barriers they face at school, in the workplace, and at home.
Three enabling factors emerged from the life stories of young women in Ghana and Senegal. By far the greatest factor was a supportive family environment. The second enabling factor is support from teachers, mentors, and peers. A third, less significant enabler is support from the public and private sectors.
There is a pervasive mismatch between education and skills requirements for the future world of work in Ghana and Senegal. Interviews with young women and other stakeholders, including educators, employers, and government officials, revealed several cross-sectoral skills requirements and sector-specific gaps in the agriculture, BPO and ICT, and tourism and hospitality sectors.
Women and girls in Ghana and Senegal still face significant barriers in access to education and work. Such differences persist in skills acquisition, career selection, progression, and opportunities for business growth. The negative effects of gender barriers add up over a woman’s life cycle and carry forward to future generations, resulting in a generational transfer of barriers that limit young women’s opportunities. Policymakers can act now to alleviate the challenges faced by young women while positioning them to take advantage of opportunities in the new world of work.
About The series
The articles in this series are based on the ACET report Barriers to Young Women’s Employment in the Future World of Work in Ghana & Senegal, prepared by an ACET team led by Edward K. Brown, ACET Senior Director of Research, Policy and Programs, and Mona Iddrisu, Head of Youth Employment and Skills. The Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA) funded this study as part of its work on government delivery of inclusive services in West Africa. For more information, access the full report and the two country case studies on Ghana and Senegal.