Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Southern perspectives on development: the missing link in discussions on modern slavery

by Priya Deshingkar

Isn’t it strange that so few people who are assumed to be ‘modern slaves’ see themselves as such?

Eliminating modern slavery, trafficking, and other forms of extreme exploitation is a declared priority of the current UK government. Its strategy to do so is inextricably linked to Western views and policies on migration, and, given its leading role in high-level consultations on a ‘global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration’, as well as in discussions around the UN’s sustainable development goals, it is well positioned to influence the way in which migration is discussed in these important forums.

This has come at a time when irregular migration has become especially visible and politically sensitive. This has resulted in an unhelpful bundling together and criminalisation of different kinds of migration, with calls for border control, police, and immigration to jointly defeat, as Theresa May puts it, “this vile and systematic international business model at its source and in transit”. It is only by removing labour market intermediaries – it is argued – that they can be saved from the slavers, traffickers, and unscrupulous employers intent on exploiting them.

Such arguments are made with very little evidence that migrants wish to be ‘saved’ in such a manner, or indeed that they view this as a form of ‘saving’ at all. On the contrary, there is substantial evidence to suggest that such policies have the unintended effect of pushing most workers into the least visible end of manufacturing, trade and services where legal protection is hard to deliver. The global policy community is thus trying to find a solution to ‘modern slavery’ without recognising that border controls, bad governance, and unwelcoming cities are all contributing factors to exploitation in the first place.

Be that as it may, the time is ripe to feed in ideas, evidence and opinions in the hope that win-win arrangements can be found for all. For those working on migration and poverty, SDG 8.7 – which aims to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking – is of enormous significance, as it constitutes an important entry point for influencing the direction of current discussions. There have been calls for more evidence, to reduce the costs of migration, and to regulate or eliminate middlemen who are seen as the perpetrators of violence and exploitation. What is missing from these calls, however, is any suggestion that we should begin speaking with and coordinating our responses with the migrants themselves.

The need for more evidence

There can be no doubt that we need more data and information because so much of the discussion is based on assumptions, moral panics, and normative judgements rather than solid evidence. Part of the reason for the lack of data is that migrants in irregular situations are scared to self-report for fear of deportation or, in the case of internal migrants, businesses and brokers keep them hidden to avoid complying with labour laws. Innovative data collection methods need to be designed to open the ‘black box’ of exploitative labour arrangements and the relationships that underpin them, in order for policy makers to better understand what happens before migration, who enters which kind of work, how, and why.

Three very diverse cases drawn from the research we have conducted in the Migrating out of Poverty project illustrate why we need a deeper understanding of these dynamics. These include the relationships that exist within households between genders and generations, as well as cultural norms dictating gender roles and responsibilities at different life stages.

The first example is an adolescent girl in an orthodox family in Ethiopia who is faced with the choice of marrying someone much older than herself or running away and trying her luck in the city so she might make something of her life. She leaves without her parents’ permission and approaches a broker who specialises in helping girls in her situation to find work in the city. She ends up as a domestic maid, working for a pittance and being on call all day, but her employer allows her to attend night school.

By contrast, young unmarried teenagers in Nepal migrate for construction work through agents locally known as “Naike” where the migration is socially accepted and arranged by relatives. They often work for little or no money, accepting food and accommodation as remuneration because the main purpose of their migration is to experience city life, become smarter, and behave in status-enhancing ways as compared to their peers in the village.

A third example is from Bangladesh, where men migrate to the Gulf states or Singapore to work in construction. To access these labour markets, they often pay brokers large sums of money acquired by borrowing from family networks or selling assets. They migrate with long-term ambitions of improving their material and social standard of living, but first they must often face months or even years of uncertainty which pushes them and their families into situations of vulnerability. Those who find work may spend much longer repaying their loans than they had originally planned.

All of these cases contain elements of the types of exploitation that are commonly referred to as ‘modern slavery’; working for little or no pay, being on almost permanent call, and incurring large debts to be paid off through work. But conversations with these migrants show that they do not think of themselves as slaves, and most have a clear sense of where they have come from and where they want to go. The early years are usually the toughest, especially for those without the support of extended social networks. Some may never succeed due to shocks such as injury or ill health. But over time most will begin to save, to send remittances, or to build up enough reserves to attempt a further move. Although many of them will not achieve their highest ambitions, they may decide that wherever they have ended up is nonetheless better than going back home.

In each case, a person’s individual circumstances, experiences, and aspirations, as well as how they use migration to achieve their goals, are very different. We need more evidence on the outcomes of such migration in the longer term. Rather than assuming that everyone in such work will end up poorer or in a worse situation than before, we need concrete evidence on change over time. There is also a far more fundamental question that needs to be asked: how do individuals in the global south – whether they migrate or not – conceive of ‘development’, and what role do they see for migration in achieving it?

Visions of development and migration as a route to development

The present discourse on slavery, trafficking, and other forms of exploitative work, as well as on migration, is underpinned by Western and neoliberal ideas related to freedom and development. These tell us that migrants should be free to choose their occupation, to be able to engage in it without paying, and that the conditions in which they work should be decent. The idea that someone would willingly pay a broker a lot of money for the chance to migrate and work under unfree conditions, while pursuing and hopefully fulfilling their long-term goals, seems to not make sense in such a paradigm.

Recruitment fees have recently come into focus as a primary mechanism through which migrants end up in debt that is impossible to repay. We assume that those trapped in debt are using it mainly to keep body and soul together, and they migrate year after year just for survival. The Indian construction sector is commonly held up as an example of this phenomenon, an area where workers are widely analysed to be on a path to further impoverishment due to their perpetual indebtedness to brokers.

When we speak to construction workers, however, it becomes quickly obvious that they view their own development and the pathways to it rather differently. Interviews with migrant construction workers in Telangana show that they view brokers as an important source of credit and better than traditional moneylenders, who humiliate them. For them, taking out and paying off debt through work allows them to spend on marriages above their social status, to invest in housing and education, and to potentially raise their standing or standard of living in the longer term.

The lesson here is that listening to the voices of migrants and understanding why they enter certain forms of work is critical to understanding where interventions should be made and where they shouldn’t. It is important to hear first-hand what migrants have to say about their own experiences, rather than only relying on civil society organisations that claim to represent workers or advocate on their behalf. These groups are often staffed by educated, urban people who may have world views more closely resembling those of the international development community than those of rural, disadvantaged workers. Without a deeper understanding of these complexities, we run the risk of putting up barriers to forms of work that may have real potential for development for people who otherwise have very limited opportunities for effecting real change in their lives.

This blog was originally published on Open Democracy, 18 October 2017. 

Priya Deshingkar is Research Director of the DFID-funded Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium; principal investigator for the ‘Capitalising human mobility for poverty alleviation and inclusive development in Myanmar (CHIME)’ project; and senior research fellow at the School of Global Studies, at the University of Sussex. She has decades of fieldwork experience in Asia as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. Her research focuses on migration and poverty, especially with regard to precarious occupations, migration, labour rights and agency.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Reflections on the UNU-WIDER development conference in Accra, Ghana, October 2017

by Eva-Maria Egger

Last week around 200 migration researchers and representatives of donor agencies and international organisations discussed how research and policy will shape migration over the next decades. The gathering was organised by the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) in partnership with the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and held in the University of Ghana at Legon, Accra.
The Vice President of Ghana, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, welcomed the participants in person emphasising the relevance of migration research for policy makers in developing countries as well as richer economies. How challenging it can be to make migration policies was documented in the keynote speech by Ingrid Palmary from the African Centre for Migration Studies (ACMS), a Migrating out of Poverty partner. She presented the results of Migrating out of Poverty research in Bangladesh, Singapore and South Africa on "How unpopular policies are made" showcasing the challenges that advocacy groups face to form successful coalitions when it comes to laws that improve immigrants' situations. Such policies often come at economic costs so they can be politically difficult to defend. The research pointed at the important interaction between local and global processes/actors and exposed the mostly passive consumption of evidence by policy makers.

Throughout the conference, the question of policy implications and challenges continued to arise. The conference addressed various aspects of migration and mobility through the lenses of economists, sociologists, historians, anthropologists, political scientists and lawyers. The topics comprised forced migration, health and education impacts of migration, social cohesion, migration governance, integration, determinants of migration, environmental causes of migration, impacts of displacement on hosting communities, and remittances. 

Migrating out of Poverty was represented not only in the keynote speech, but also in two parallel sessions. Julie Litchfield from the University of Sussex presented research on gender differences in remittance sending behaviour in Zimbabwe. The results showed that once migrant and household characteristics are controlled for, there is no gender difference in the incidence nor value of remittances sent, but women send relatively larger shares of goods. Questions were raised that could explain these differences and the author suggested to further investigate the use of remittances, for example, by looking at expenditure share of various goods. This could reveal, for example, whether women might remit goods to directly benefit a specific person in the household such as a child left behind. 

I also presented some Migrating out of Poverty research, co-authored with Julie Litchfield, which described the repeated nature of migration within rural households in Ghana and estimates the impact of sending additional migrants on household welfare. We do not find any effect of further engagement in migration on households' asset wealth. The data suggests that households with new migrants use their savings to finance migration so that they might not be able to further invest in other assets. On the other hand, migration costs for new migrants are lower than those of first-time or previous migrants. This raised the question whether households might be learning from their previous migration experience.

Both studies were well received due to their detailed description of the characteristics of migrants, their households and remittance patterns. This drew the attention to the household surveys conducted by Migrating out of Poverty in both countries reflecting an important contribution to the goal to close the migration data gap

Another example of policy-relevant research was the presentation by Eva Dick and Benjamin Schraven of the German Development Institute (DIE) based on a government funded research aiming to better understand migration governance in source countries. They develop a comparative framework to analyse migration governance in the ECOWAS and IGAD region that reflects on the position of migration within the institutional identity, structures specifically addressing migration, the normative reasoning behind migration governance, and finally how this is transmitted into written policies and actually implemented. The discussion revealed the lack of integration regarding mobility within these two regions and a lack of commitment to implement policies such as freedom of movement due to priority of national interest.

A special session on the root causes of migration with two presentations by the United Nations' agricultural organizations, FAO and IFAD, looked for evidence of the relationship between rural development and migration. These institutions are interested in the extent that agricultural development might encourage or deter migration from rural areas in developing countries. Migration out of rural areas is high in many of the countries that are agriculture dependent and the question arises to what extent this is part of the structural transformation process and as such could be shaped to result in inclusive economic growth or whether new patterns are emerging. These new patterns include those of the youth bulge in many African countries turning away from agriculture and seeking opportunities in cities or abroad and some destinations failing to offer these opportunities. Especially for the African region another challenge is posed by a structural transformation process with a lack of more productive jobs in the non-farm agricultural or service sector due to increased globalisation pressures.

The second keynote speech by Professor Hillel Rapoport from the Paris School of Economics summarised existing evidence on the impacts of diaspora or international migration on origin countries through economic integration (via trade, financial flows, innovation) or cultural integration (political views, cultural convergence). Evidence shows that migration increases bilateral trade as a larger diaspora reduces transaction costs and raises demand for goods from the country of origin. While there is no evidence on this, a larger diaspora could even influence trade agreements by creating the critical demand. Migration leads to an even larger increase in financial flows than goods trade, especially for high-skilled migration. Also, innovation is positively related to international migration. However, there is no evidence specifically for the innovation in the agricultural sector and whether financial flows reach this sector. Professor Rapoport concluded to "let their people come" because the evidence shows an overall positive effect of international migration for development in origin countries and even on national policies of receiving countries. These impacts are expected to be even higher for South-South migration because there transaction costs etc. are usually higher.

Finally, the conference closed with reflections on the future research and policy agenda. A major goal for research is to produce more evidence on the causes and consequences of migration that can help to inform policy makers. This implies more data collection with a focus on migration, in source regions as well as following the migrants along their way and over time. To finance such costly surveys, policy makers have to be convinced of their potential to improve our knowledge. At the same time researchers have to be more creative in exploiting existing data to produce evidence as the resource mobilisation for new data is likely to be slow and challenging. New forms of research engagement with policy organisations are evolving, such as rapid reaction research immediately when and where events occur. One example is a survey collected at the arrival of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea run by the IOM at arrival points. 

Additional topics that should gain more attention by researchers and policy makers alike were raised. Among them were those of irregular migration and drivers to participate in it despite the risks, impacts of return migration, patterns of labour demand in destination countries to create channels of legal migration, net-benefits of migration, the role of information about migration to make it safer, financial product innovation that can improve the use of remittances, as well as the impact on families left-behind and possible need for support policies in origins. 

Covering a broad spectrum of migration-related topics, this conference provided the platform to share existing knowledge and to identify remaining knowledge gaps. These need to be closed to offer policy makers better understanding of how to positively shape mobility around the world. 

All presentation slides, papers and video recordings of the conference can be found online

Eva-Maria Egger worked for Migrating out of Poverty while completing her PhD at the University of Sussex. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Migrating out of Poverty, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, nor the UK’s Department for International Development.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Migrating out of Poverty at the UNU WIDER development conference

By Emmanuel Quarshie

The United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) in collaboration with the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) organized a development conference on migration and mobility on 5-6 October 2017 in Accra, Ghana. The theme of the conference was ‘Migration and mobility - new frontiers for research and policy’. In this blog I will discuss some of the main themes running through the conference and the Migrating out of Poverty contributions.

The issues of migration and mobility have become very topical and find their place at the heart of high-level global economic development debates. They are a feature of the Sustainable Development Goals due to the range of opportunities and challenges they pose globally. For this reason the conference sought to bring together a variety of disciplines ‘to inform policy-relevant debate and action’.

The conference was well attended by a wide range of researchers and scholars in the fields of migration, development economics and anthropology, among others. Favourably, Migrating out of Poverty team members from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Ghana were present. His Excellency, the Vice-President of Ghana, Mahamudu Bawumia gave the opening speech after a warm welcome address by Finn Tarp, Director of UNU-WIDER, and Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary General of ARUA.

The first keynote lecture was delivered by Ingrid Palmary, professor and academic director of the African Centre for Migration & Society at Wits University, South Africa. In her lecture, ‘How unpopular policies are made’, she discussed the following six key factors impacting on policy:

  • The nature of the policy being made
  • Who is the policy for?
  • Who are the role players?
  • Which positions have been taken? i.e. Is it from the moral/ethical or legal/human-right point of view?
  • Contestations over knowledge and
  • The political environment.

In her conclusion, she highlighted the fact that there is the need to attend to the relationship between global and local processes in policy formulation in order to avoid political rhetoric.

Professor Mariama Awumbila and Benjamin Schraven served as conveners for the parallel session on ‘Migration within Africa: defining the governance challenge’. A series of discussions went on after the three presentations, where focus was on the challenges of regional migration, economic integration and marriage migration. Having a keen interest in the presentation on ‘Challenges to regional migration and economic integration in West Africa: the case of Ghana and Nigeria’ I asked the presenter, Stephen Adaawen, if he could clearly explain the major problem impeding the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol implementation, and if one of the plausible reasons was the conflict that exists between country-specific policies and ECOWAS protocol? He responded that the major challenge hampering the observation of the protocol for nationals from other member states was political will.  Countries within the community of the West Africa states looked to prioritize their citizens over citizens of other ECOWAS countries. Prof Awumbila suggested to improve mobility there was a need for ECOWAS to refine and define some key policies on the acquisition of work permits, residence permits and other such permits, to take into account those nationals residing outside their state that pass the 90 days of allowed stay in the another ECOWAS country. She also added that most of these issues emanate from the paucity in data on job categorisation and a lack of universality in school certificates among member countries.

During an afternoon session which was chaired by Ingrid Palmary, Julie Litchfield presented on
‘Migrant remittances and gender in Zimbabwe’. The presentation shed more light on in-kind remittances, which she stated, are more often sent by female migrants. It was put across, that in order to clearly understand the gendered dynamics of remitting and the overarching motivation to remit, these types of remittances must be acknowledged and explored. She argued that a focus on cash remittances ignores the larger volume of remittances sent by both men and women, but particularly undervalues the contribution of women to rural and household economies and this may have implications for policy around remittances. Looking solely at monetary remittances creates an incomplete picture.  Women are as likely as men to send remittances home and there is no difference in the value of what they send.

Eva-Maria Egger presented on ‘The nature and impact of repeated migration within households in rural Ghana’. The research sought to explore whether new migrants differ from the previous migrants of the same household and how having a new migrant affects the welfare of households who had already engaged in migration. She concluded with these four points:

  • There are repeated migration patterns and different motivations for migration within the same household
  • ‘New’ migrants are often from the younger generation, move more for educational reasons and because of household dynamics. They pay less for their move, remit rarely and when remitting, send smaller amounts
  • There was no impact of having a new migrant on the households of those left-behind who had already engaged in migration. Lower costs and the use of savings could explain this result
  • More longitudinal data and more outcome measures are needed for conclusive analysis

The last session of the conference highlighted an issue that many of us are grappling with. How can research affect policy? This invited a lot of views which highlighted the gap between research and policy; the role of politics in the implementation of key policies; the lack of proper liaison between researchers and policy makers; and the conflicting interests among these various actors. All places where more research can and should be done.

Emmanuel Quarshie is the Communications and Research Uptake officer for Migrating out of Poverty at the Centre for Migration Studies in Ghana

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

We’re attending the ‘Migration and mobility – new frontiers for research and policy’ conference in Ghana

On the 5-6 October delegates from around the world will be gathering in Accra, Ghana for the ‘Migration and mobility – new frontiers for research and policy’ conference hosted by UNU WIDER and the African Research Universities Alliance. The organisers have brought together researchers and policy makers to share new knowledge on migration within the Africa region. They explain:

“Migration and mobility are key facets of our increasingly globalized world, posing challenges but also offering opportunities. For migrants, this may include economic and social mobility, as well as improved physical security and an escape from conflict, violence and persecution. While the impact of migration on both host and sending countries is a topic of considerable contemporary political debate, there is also ample research showing the benefits in terms of labour market outcomes, economic growth, as well as diversity and innovation.”

Migrating out of Poverty is delighted that team members from South Africa, Ghana and the UK will be attending the conference.

On Thursday 5 October:
  • From 09.00-10.30, Ingrid Palmary will provide a keynote on ‘Global and local influences on policy making: An example of the South African anti-trafficking legislation’. She will discuss how global influences shaped the development of South Africa’s anti-trafficking legislation (Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act no. 26715, 2013). She has mapped these influences in terms of how they shaped the passing of the Act as well as the form that it took. In her address she will give attention to the case of migration policy-making which has taken place amidst complex and unequal global relationships.
  • From 10.45-12.30 (Parallel 1.4), Mariama Awumbila will chair the session on ‘Migration within Africa: defining the governance challenge.’
  • From 14.00-15.45 (Parallel 2.3), Ingrid Palmary will chair the session on ‘Gender.’ Julie Litchfield will present work from the counterfactuals study in Zimbabwe, ‘Migrant remittances and gender in Zimbabwe.’ This paper examines remittance sending behaviour of Zimbabwean migrants, both internal and international, exploring the nature of remittances and how remittance behaviour responds to the characteristics of the receiving family. Particular emphasis is placed on exploring gender differences in motivations to remit. The analysis draws on primary data collected by the authors in Zimbabwe in 2015 from a sample of 1200 households. 
  • From 16.15-18.00 (Parallel 3.2), Eva-Maria Egger will present work from the counterfactuals study in Ghana, ‘Migration experience, the migration decision and its impact on household welfare: new evidence from rural Ghana.’ In this paper, she explores repeated migration within a household and consequent welfare outcomes. The paper provides evidence that households often have more than one migrant member and that they have different characteristics depending on who moved first. New migrants are more likely to be from a younger generation, they face lower migration costs, and only few of them remit. She finds no effect of sending a new migrant on the change in the asset index. The different nature of migration of new migrants implies neither an economic gain for the household nor a loss. The reason for the former is that the migrants remit less or not at all and the reason for the latter is that migration becomes less costly with prior experience. 

Do come along to our sessions and meet the team.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

My PhD odyssey with Migrating out of Poverty

By Jon Sward,

In August, after five years of hard work, my PhD odyssey – which included a studentship with Migrating out of Poverty – came to a happy conclusion when I submitted the corrections to my thesis, following my viva voce exam in February.

When I started my PhD journey, I knew that I wanted to focus on the relationship between migration, poverty reduction, and the environment at migration destinations in low-income contexts. This was in October 2012, and I had spent a good chunk of the past half-year taking part in follow-up activities with key policy stakeholders in relation to the Foresight Report on Migration and Global Environmental Change. The report provided an overview of the state-of-science on climate migration, drawing on 70 working papers from scholars around the globe. Among the key findings of the report was that in future decades people were likely to be in increasingly moving into areas that are affected by dramatic environmental changes, and yet the nascent body of research evidence at the time on the ‘climate-migration nexus’ was mainly preoccupied with how environmental factors contributed to out-migration in migration ‘origin areas’.

I was interested in looking at how things were panning out for migrants at other end of the migratory chain, and how environmental change was part of this equation. These rather vague origins eventually led me to alight on internal migration to rural agricultural areas in Ghana’s Brong Ahafo region. One of my supervisors, Prof Dominic Kniveton, suggested I consider using ‘complex adaptive systems’ (CAS) theory as a way to frame my research – and I’m glad I did as this framework helped my re-think the ways I saw migration and climate relations, and led me to a set of questions I probably would not have encountered otherwise. CAS theory is based on the notion that human systems and the environment are co-evolving, and that the actions of agents underlie larger patterns and processes. Rather than staying in equilibrium, however, human and environmental relations are continuously being re-formed through feedback processes and non-linear relations. CAS theory invites a thorough analysis of the positioning of social actors within wider structures, and an understanding of the ongoing dialogue between these social actors and the environment.  

As part of my PhD, I conducted qualitative research with three communities in Brong Ahafo, which were mainly comprised of migrant farmers from Northern Ghana. CAS theory gave me a framework to explore the relationships between in-migration, changing land tenure norms under which farmers were acquiring land, and the impact of environmental change (especially rainfall variability and bushfires) on these migrants’ livelihoods. Their  livelihoods were embedded in larger agricultural supply chains that link rural Ghana to global markets, while also being mediated by varying social, monetary and other types of capital on the local level and weather patterns which migrants claimed were becoming increasingly erratic.

I found highly differentiated livelihoods among my interview participants across the three sites. This suggested that those who had arrived in the region when land tenure norms were comparatively good, or who had significant social capital within these ‘stranger’ communities, had sometimes been highly successful since migrating to Brong Ahafo. However, many of their migrant counterparts were – as they put it – ‘farming at a loss’, and were struggling to eke out a living through tenant farming.

One of the things that struck me about the tenant farmers I worked with as part of my PhD research was how invisible they were at the level of national policy, to say nothing of international donors’ agendas. Despite the repeated refrain that development policy should help ‘the poorest’, often those who are truly at the margins are left unheard. In a round-about way, these insights led me to my new post-PhD line of work, which while building on my focus on environmental change, doesn’t have a migration element, at least for now. In August, I started a new job at the Bretton Woods Project, a World Bank and IMF watchdog based in London. As the Environment Project Manager, I am developing a new environmental advocacy focus that will build on the Bretton Woods Project’s historical focus on monitoring the Bank’s role in climate finance and investing in energy infrastructure projects in developing countries. We are entering a pivotal global moment in terms of efforts to deal with the existential threat that anthropogenic climate change poses. Although the Bank has been quick to identify the problem of climate change – probably shouting the loudest about it amongst multilateral development banks – change on its operational side has not been swift, and between 2008-2015 it poured some $25 billion into investment in fossil fuels according to Oil Change International.

Like all big institutions, adapting to climate change for the World Bank will be painful but necessary if it wants to carry out its mission of poverty reduction that will reach the poorest, who are often most at risk of climate change’s impacts. Too often, the solutions to these problems have been linear, technical solutions – we’re entering a tough new world, and we need to understand the complexities that underpin it.

Monday, 4 September 2017

A doctoral student’s journey with Migrating out of Poverty

In the summer five years ago, while I was writing up my Master dissertation, I received an email from the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium offering me a studentship. I accepted gratefully and today I am looking at a completed PhD thesis on internal migration in Brazil and Ghana as well as on a long list of skills and experiences gained during my work with the team.

Migration forms part of life for many people in developing countries, but questions remain about modern patterns of internal migration beyond rural-to-urban movement and the impacts on receiving communities as well as on the households that stay behind. In my dissertation, I investigated these questions through the lens of an economist. The thesis comprises three essays that utilise household data and apply econometric methods for the analysis.

In the first paper, the focus is on Brazilian workers who move out of metropolitan cities to smaller towns. Documenting that as many people move out of the mega cities as into them, I find that high housing costs in the big cities appear to drive the migration decision. Migrants earn relatively more, or at least as much, in the small towns as in the cities once rent prices are accounted for and they prefer smaller destinations close to their origin and within their state of birth.

The high mobility of the Brazilian population raises the question of how the arrival of migrants in a new location affects economic and social factors there. The arrival of internal migrants is associated with an increase in local homicide rates, but only if the destination labour market has a small informal sector and/or if it had very high crime in the past. These findings point at the role that local labour market structures play for the integration of migrants, whether internal or international.

The third essay turns to repeated patterns of migration and their consequences for origin households. Together with Dr Julie Litchfield, Team Leader of the Quantitative Research in Migrating out of Poverty, we documented different migration patterns in rural Ghana using data collected there in 2013 and 2015 by the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS). Migration is a repeated event within these households, family members move and others move a few years later. We found that new migrants are more likely to be from a younger generation, they face lower migration costs, and only few of them remit. There seems to be no effect on a household’s asset index when a new migrant moves. We concluded that the different nature of migration of new migrants implies neither an economic gain for the household nor a loss. The reason for the former is that the migrants remit less or not at all and the reason for the latter is that migration becomes less costly with prior experience.

Aside the important financial contribution the consortium has made to my PhD, working as part of the Sussex team was an enriching experience filled with great opportunities. I was able to follow the process of collecting a household survey from the design of a questionnaire through the training of enumerators to the verification of the data. I was involved in the data cleaning and further data analysis for several working papers, for example in Bangladesh (RMMRU), Ghana (CMS) and South Africa (ACMS). During this process I grew in confidence thanks to the trust put in me by the team. For example, I was granted the opportunity to travel to the partners of ACMS in South Africa and CMS in Ghana to discuss the data and research results. Most of all, I appreciated to work in a multi-disciplinary team. The quality and diversity of research presented at the final conference this March summarized the importance of looking at the topic of migration through various lenses in order to understand it better. The consortium impressed and excited me to continue to do so.

Today I write this blog from Rome, where I have started a post-doctoral position in the Research and Impact Assessment Division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a UN organisation. The Fund’s projects are geared towards rural development and the topic of migration is recognized as an integral part of this process. I get the chance to contribute the experience gained during these past years of my work with Migrating out of Poverty, and new topics await me, such as seasonal migration within the rural transformation process. Throughout all these new challenging research agendas, I look forward to future collaboration with Migrating out of Poverty and its partners!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Demonised migration brokers can point out where policy is going wrong

In the fight against human trafficking and the rise of modern slavery, a top priority for governments and human rights organisations has been to “break the business model” of migration brokers thought to be the main channel for such exploitation. Those same governments might do well to understand what those brokers do, and why they exist in the first place.

If you want to see brokers in action, then domestic work and construction work are as good a place to start as any. In these sectors people can be exploited thanks to a lack of written contracts, the hidden nature of the work inside private homes (in the case of domestic workers), non-compliance with labour laws.

Migrant workers from poorer countries and communities are heavily represented in both occupations. Often, the only way they can negotiate complex regulations is with the help of migration brokers who have the skills, knowledge and connections needed to move into these different worlds. Brokers are often former migrants or well connected and trusted members of the migrant’s own community.

The other side of the story
Brokers have been demonised as exploiters of migrant labour due to the level of control they can exert over migrants with no other means of support. However, there is another side to this which sheds light on why migrants keep using brokers. Recent research that I have been involved with in Ghana and Bangladesh shows a complex reality where brokers are indeed complicit in perpetuating exploitation and conditions of forced labour, but also help migrants to bargain for better working conditions.

Chapainawabganj in Bangladesh, a high migration district near the border with India, sees large numbers of men from farming families migrate to Qatar for construction work. In the Bangladeshi popular discourse, brokers are called Adam Bepari or “traders in human beings” typifying the view which assumes all the power lies with the broker. Similar ways of describing recruiters are seen in other countries.

The government has attempted to eliminate brokers but with little success. Bangladeshi men continue to use informal brokers for several reasons. Legal migration through the Kafala system, the sponsored visa system in the Gulf, is expensive and difficult because skills may not match available jobs. Migrants also say that they feel more protected by the “moral contract” with the broker, witnessed by family and elders. Many also want “free visas” that don’t tie them to a single employer, so they might have the opportunity to move on to better jobs through social networks in Qatar. This was only possible if brokers guided them down an irregular migration route.

Even when brokers broke promises on wages and contracts, migrants regarded the migration as successful because they had reached Qatar and found work, however exploitative. Migrants factor in hardship and precarity in the short term to achieve long-term goals of improved living standards and prospects for their families. Brokers, however imperfect, are seen as a necessary stepping stone.

Domestic work in Ghana
There are echoes of the same story in west Africa, where there is rural-urban migration for domestic work within Ghana. Here too brokers are widely regarded as unscrupulous traders who exploit vulnerable domestic workers.

However, our interviews with 76 migrants, employers, brokers and officials show the grey area. Brokers do help to maintain the status quo by pressuring workers to accept exploitative terms and behave in subservient ways, but they also help migrants with settling into urban areas, bargaining and job-switching for better working conditions.

Brokers offer a route through which migrants can negotiate with employers, an otherwise thankless task. Unlike formal agencies, informal brokers helped employers with recommendations on character and behaviour, an aspect regarded as very important by women who were recruiting another female to work in their home.

Lessons for policy
These two very different examples show clear similarities. Migrants and employers are reluctant to engage with the formal system and can have a strong preference for informal brokers who they trust. Informal brokers are also cheaper. In Ghana, employers are charged a non-refundable 250 Ghanaian cedis (about US$60) fee and workers 100 cedis in the official system. Informal brokers charge less than half and tailor their fees to each client.

Formal agencies are also not designed to help migrants with the things that they need most. Those seeking work away from home need shepherding through complex procedures, support and financing, and someone who can negotiate on their behalf. Work secured through brokers may pay less than work secured through formal channels, but getting into the labour market at all is a prize for many migrants.

Policy makers in Ghana, Bangladesh and beyond should recognise that brokerage is fuelled by tightening border controls and work permit systems, and by unwelcoming urban areas. Launching an attack on brokerage without easing migration barriers will not work. In fact, the way brokers work should encourage more migrant friendly practices such as cheap loans, flexible repayment and support with integration.

There are strong parallels between the situation we have described in the global South and the experience right now in Europe where governments are trying to eliminate brokers without providing workable alternatives to help migrants manage risk. All migration through brokers is labelled as trafficking. Examples of extreme exploitation are highlighted as governments seek to deter migrants. The role that brokers play in easing the path to economic migration and providing protection through the journey is rarely talked about.
The clear lesson from Ghana and Bangladesh is that a flourishing brokerage industry is a signal that formal channels are failing, or at least fail to meet the nuanced demands of migration and migrants. The demonisation of brokers as exploitative criminals is not entirely unfair, but it falls short if we are to genuinely understand the lives and motivations of migrants while legal and legitimate migration remains a privilege enjoyed by a rich and educated minority.

Acknowledgements: This article was first published in The Conversation.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Understanding migrant life in the market: The Kayayei of Madina

By Emmanuel Quarshie and Gloria Makafui Dovoh

Kayayei work has been in the system for so long a time from our older sisters and mothers who for instance came to the big cities to work and made some money, bought utensils and other items and returned home. Upon seeing these items, other mothers also encouraged their children to go find work in the big cities so they could get money as well. In comparing the living conditions of those in the North with those in Madina, I can say the city life is better even though I still travel back home occasionally. I still believed the young ones could have stayed in school a little longer. I believe kayayei are many in Madina because most of the girls who migrate to Madina are unwilling to help their families, if the situation were different, the kayayei would have been just a few. I also think that there are a lot of children because older kayayei who are nursing mothers bring younger girls to help them cater for their babies and these younger ones end up one way or the other becoming kayayei as well.

Madam Rakiya, the leader of the Mamprusi kayayei.

Kayayei is a Ghanaian term made up of two languages; Hausa and Ga where kaya means load in Hausa and yei means women in Ga. Kayayei (female head load porters) are usually found with head pans in market places. They carry goods for a living and most of them migrate from the three Northern regions of Ghana; Upper West, Upper East, and Northern Regions.  The main ethnic group that kayayei belong to is the Mamprusi, followed by the Mole-Dagbani.

The Municipal Co-ordinating Director of La-Nkwantanang Madina Municipal Assembly, Alhaji Saaka Dramani, said in an interview that as at 2013, there were approximately 9,000 kayayei living in Madina and they stay at seven main areas; Zongo, Nkwantanang, Areas around Redco Flats, Madina Number One Park, Dzifanco, Adenta Powerland and Riss Junction. They often live in slum-like conditions.

From one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions with 50 kayayei in Madina Market, we heard more about the reasons that they migrated, the patterns of their daily lives, and how their conditions could be improved.

Reasons for migration
Some kayayei moved to Madina because they wanted to live in the big city and others migrated to Madina because there are far more kayayei in Kumasi leading to competition for customers. A lot of the kayayei in Madina Market were direct migrants who travelled straight from their towns of origin to Madina without making stops in other towns to work before continuing down south.

According to the Ghana Statistical Service Report, 2015, the poverty incidence in Upper West region of Ghana is 59.0 % representing the highest in the country followed by 51.9% in the Upper East region and 40.9% in the Northern region. In recent times, north-south migration in Ghana among women has become very significant, with more women on the move. The 2010 census conducted by Ghana Statistical Service indicated that almost 50% of all internal migrants were women, which outweighs majority of African countries. Some scholars in the migration field refer to this as the feminization of migration in Ghana.  

Most of these kayayei we spoke to migrated due to the seasonal variations in the weather affecting their crop yields. A survey conducted on kayayei by the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor in 2010 reported that 58% of the girls were engaged in farming prior to their migration from the northern part of Ghana to Accra. Changes in their ability to support the household has meant male heads are no longer the main breadwinners. To assist in financing the household women resort to migration as the most convenient strategy for future economic gain in order to smoothen the household consumption level. This accounts for the recent prevalence of women on the move from the northern part of Ghana to the south which is the capital city.

Back home in Tamprusi, I used to weed groundnut farm virtually from dawn to dusk every day which yielded very little money and also there was no other job available so I told my parents about my desire to come and work in Accra. I came all alone on a bus, even though I was scared and knew nobody in Accra, but I was bent on getting money to learn a trade, help my seven siblings and mother. Upon my arrival, I found out where my colleagues were staying, I joined them and immediately made a couple of friends. From there, I started wandering around the market in search of customers, however, with this kayayei work, I have decided that if it does not help me, I will go back home. Ruth, a 20-year-old kayayei

Long days chasing work
In the week, most kayayei begin their days between 4 am and 6 am to join Islamic prayers since the majority of them are practicing Muslims and then prepare for the market. The younger ones are usually responsible for the house chores of sweeping and cleaning while the older ones take their bath and head for the market. The kayayei of La-Nkwantanang Madina live in housing units based on their ethnic background in order to have that sense of belonging as well as to avoid ethnic clashes. The younger ones consider the older kayayei from their ethnic groups as their older sisters hence they are responsible for the daily house chores while the older ones play the nurturing roles by providing the younger ones with protection and security and also give account to their parents back in the North.

As Abigail puts it:
I usually wake up at 4 am to sweep and take my bath then I head to the market around 5 am. During the day, I eat as and when I get hungry and sometimes based on the amount of money available. Kayayei business is my main source of income so I try to work very hard to make ends meet from this work even though it is difficult because I do not make enough money from it after combing most parts of the Madina Market in the scorching sun.

Most kayayei said that it was difficult to get work and that when they did, their patrons were reluctant to pay the full amount.

Amina narrated that;
On some days, I manage to get customers and on other days, I do not get even one person and even when I found a customer, he or she was unwilling to pay the amount I charge them. At the end of the day, I manage to make about Gh20 to Gh30.

Many kayayei said that they faced challenges in making their rent and earning enough for food, clothing, and water. Abigail explained:
"I pay a rent of Gh5 per week and share a room with about ten other kayayei, both young and old, at Nkwantanang. I also save some money with my friends for future use like purchasing rice or groundnut and retailing in my community when I return."

Fatima told us:
When I do not have money to pay immediately, I tell the landlord about my inability to pay so he gives me a week to pay in addition to the following weeks rent. And for feeding and water, I sometimes borrow money from my close friends to acquire them, with respect to money, there is very little I can do when I face such challenges.

Even though they do not make the kind of money they speculated they would, and people take advantage of their vulnerability, the kayayei we spoke to still perceived migration as the only solution to the challenges that they faced at home.

How can the kayayei be supported?
Over the years rhetoric around migration has tended to be negative, sideling the benefits that migration brings to individual migrants and their households.

To improve development policies, we need an in-depth understanding of the capabilities and strategies of poor people, from their own perspective.

The problem of mass migration of kayayei must be tackled from the source region. Em Ekong, the director of Urban Inclusion, a consultancy which specializes in community-based economic development, rightly posited at the New African Woman Forum that, "the key fact remains that a lot of women and girls are making their way into cities because they are not making enough money and they dont see opportunities for themselves in Ghanas rural north. One of the many ways in which we can work around this is through meaningful financial inclusion.

Women need to be given the chance to develop businesses in sectors such as agriculture. This must go beyond the subsistence farming by providing them with affordable and accessible financial solutions in rural areas to expand their capacity.

Also, the source regions should also see the migration of many young women as a challenge to the region and engage them in non-agricultural activities like vocational education, learning a trade, or encouraging them to stay in school much longer than they do. Since many of them migrate due to limited job opportunities, it would be prudent if either governmental and non-governmental organizations provide start-up capital or credit facilities to these young women in the North to engage in stable employment which could also serve as a qualification for future employment. Attempts to do this will ensure that the future flow of individuals will account for relatively more skilled migrants which possess positively heavier trickle-down effect on the economy.

Dovoh, G. M. (2017). Assessing the livelihood conditions of kayayei in the La-Nkwantanang Madina Municipality, Bachelors Dissertation, Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana, Legon. 

Friday, 11 August 2017

Is child labour always wrong?

By Dorte Thorsen

Debates about child labour are often emotional and deeply moral. Campaigns use images of small children doing work that looks much too hard, often in dirty rags and sometimes crying. These images speak to the consciousness of northern consumers, not least because they link children’s work in commercial crops, garment factories and mines with their consumption of chocolate, clothing, and various minerals.

Such images also prompt policies to eradicate child labour. Policy-makers have recently called for private companies involved in global supply chains take action to tackle child labour. But what exactly falls under the label ‘child labour’?

Defining child labour
The definition of child labour has evolved over the years; from including all productive activities, to equating child labour with paid employment and as distinctly different from unpaid work within the family. The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) current interpretation of child labour is that it is work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity, and is harmful to their physical and mental development.

The ILO also states that not all work done by children should be classified as child labour. If work does not affect the child’s health and personal development negatively and does not interfere with schooling, there is no reason to label it as child labour. In such cases, work is likely to help children and adolescents to build skills and experience for their future. This interpretation is a significant softening of earlier stances on child labour. 

Yet, skills development appears to be perceived mostly as chores around the home and in the family business or as earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. Clearly, children are not seen as workers but as school children. Moreover, it is inherently difficult, if not impossible, to measure the three areas of deprivation set out in ILO’s definition of child labour.The language and statistics used in international campaigns about child labour are confusing in several other ways. On campaign posters, UNICEF state that 168 million children are forced to work. This choice of language stimulates associations to forced labour and modern slavery, even though being forced to work may also hail from necessity and does not inevitably imply exploitation. ILO tells us that 168 million children are in child labour but says nothing about being forced to work. Instead, ILO notes that 85 million are in hazardous work.

Figures are frequently communicated as facts despite being estimates. One example is the announcement that the number of children in child labour fell by a third between 2000 and 2012, further detailed by the ILO as a fall by 40% among girls and 25% by boys. A key message from both UNICEF and ILO is that actions to eradicate child labour are effective. Indisputably some of them are, but the lower figure might also pertain in part to the changing definition of child labour. The ambiguous use of figures begs questions about which children should be targeted in programmes addressing child labour?

Approaches to tackling child labour
Contrasting approaches to child labour and child protection exist. On the one hand, abolitionists advocate universal labour standards and a complete ban on child labour. Standards concerning the minimum age for admission to employment (ILO Convention No. 138) are central to this standpoint. This is based on the assumption that keeping children out of work up to a certain age will keep them safe and in school. The call on private companies to root out child labour in their supply chains and their subsequent actions usually fall in this category.

On the other hand, a child-centred approach is gaining ground, which looks more at the issues that motivate children’s work and how they perceive their labour force participation. It is based on the assumption that working children are best supported through protecting them against exploitation and hazardous working conditions. Standards concerning the worst forms of child labour (ILO Convention No. 182) are central to this standpoint.

Troubles with the ‘child labour’ label
Despite the drive for universal standards, all countries have not stipulated the same minimum working age nor does it remain fixed. Special provisions for developing countries means that some signatories have set 14 years as the official minimum age, others 15 or 16 years. Burkina Faso, for example, increased the minimum age from 14 to 16 years in 2008 to align with legislation concerning compulsory education, while Guinea allowed 12-year-old children to work provided their parents or guardians gave written consent. Consequently, programming to eradicate child labour addresses children under twelve in some countries and adolescents up to sixteen in others. Clearly, a standardised approach is inappropriate from a child protection point of view. But will the companies sourcing materials in different countries be willing to address such differences?

When children or adolescents are barred from work due to their age, the reason why they are working and what they gain from this work is not taken into account. They may indeed need to work due to poverty and family circumstances, but they may also choose to work because they receive valuable economic and social rewards for their work. Regardless of the underlying reasons, they may be immensely proud of their ability to earn.

Allowing children’s and adolescents’ views on their work to be heard and seeing it in context is a recognition of them as social actors, and of their rights according to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child to participate in decisions concerning them. It does not condone the exploitation of working children, nor does it say children always make good decisions. The child-centred approach challenges the idea that the solution to child labour is a ban. Evidence shows that when children and adolescents under the minimum age for entry into paid employment are barred from work, they are often driven into more hazardous and exploitative work. Moreover, if protection is tied to age and not working conditions, adolescents over the minimum age may be subject exploitation and harm.

Worst forms of child labour
ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the worst forms of child labour is a useful instrument. It prohibits employing children up to the age of 18 years to do work considered hazardous to their physical, mental and moral health and development, work that is severely exploitative, or involving children in illicit activities, pornography, and sex work. However, like the minimum age standards, standards concerning occupation and working conditions can also be problematic if applied in broad brushstrokes to classify an entire sector as a worst form of child labour.

This is the case for domestic service in Rwanda, for example. Yet, young children and older children rarely do the same chores. In many situations, the boys and girls employed as domestic workers do chores that are in accordance with local perceptions of what is age-appropriate. Young domestic workers are mostly engaged to do childcare, clean and collect water, while older domestic workers are deemed sufficiently knowledgeable and mature to be tasked with cooking. Unsurprisingly the ways in which domestic workers below 18 years are treated can be placed on a continuum from very good to very bad, suggesting that a case-by-case use of the Convention No. 182 to protect working children would be more adequate.

Working children’s potential
The assumption that children drop out of school to do paid work is a persistent idea among abolitionists. Evidence focusing on adolescent migrants from rural areas who have come to the city to work shows that this is rarely the case. Most of the adolescents drop out of school due to school malfunctioning or their parents’ inability to pay school-related expenses. This is particularly prevalent at senior secondary level when schooling becomes notably more expensive. Adolescents counter the lack of opportunity in rural areas by leaving for the city.

Many of them migrate with the objective of continuing education while working or back home when they have saved up money for fees. Distant relatives who employ an adolescent to work for them, frequently promise to pay fees for vocational training instead of a wage. Migration is thus a means to continue education in one way or other. Even for those who do not pursue education in the formal sense, the migratory and occupational trajectory is often structured by an element of learning. Through work they acquire skills that allow them to ask for jobs that command higher wages and shift from unskilled work to lowly skilled, urban work.

These children and adolescents may not engage in the production of goods serving global commodity chains, but the issues their work project regarding educational prospects, risks, and vulnerability are important to bear in mind. Companies sourcing globally may help working children by recognising that not all are involved in child labour. They can also insist on standards concerning occupation and working conditions being used sensibly by producers, sub-contractors and law-enforcing authorities in order to protect working children and help them attain skills and education.

BOURDILLON, M., LEVINSON, D., MYERS, W. & WHITE, B. 2010. Rights and wrongs of children's work, New Brunswick, New Jersey and London, Rutgers University Press.

HASHIM, I. M. & THORSEN, D. 2011. Child migrants in Africa, London, Zed Books.

ILO 2013. Marking progress against child labour - Global estimates and trends 2000-2012. International Labour Office, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), Geneva.

THORSEN, D. 2013. Weaving in and out of employment and self-employment: young rural migrants in the informal economy of Ouagadougou. International Development Planning Review, 35, 203-218.

THORSEN, D. 2014. Jeans, bicycles and mobile phones. Adolescent migrants' material consumption in Burkina Faso. In: VEALE, A. & DONÀ, G. (eds.) Child and youth migration. Mobility-in-migration in an era of globalization Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Monday, 7 August 2017

A hand-to-mouth life: The story of migrant shoe-makers in Accra

By Emmanuel Quarshie and Chris Zigah,

Migration has always played an important role in socio-economic development, especially in the developing world and Ghana is not an exception. Irrespective of the tremendous contribution of the informal sector to socio-economic development of Ghana, certain jobs have not been adequately studied by researchers. For example, cobblers within the urban informal sector - people who mend and polish shoes. Since Ghana’s early independence, the shoemaker's trade has been gradually increasing. People have traveled to neighboring countries in West Africa like Burkina Faso, Togo, Nigeria, Benin to engage in this informal sector activity. 

Various types of Cobblers
While in many settings women outnumber men in the informal sector cobbling is a mainly a male dominated field with little or no female contributions. Cobblers in Accra can be grouped into three main types:

Type 1 the professional cobbler – they are fewer in numbers, however they make the most in terms of income. They engage in the manufacturing of locally made footwear popularly called the “Kumasi sandals” found on the Ghanaian market. The professional cobbler unlike the other types of urban cobblers can be said to be a more stable profession.

Type 2 the stationed cobbler - they provide services like mending and polishing of footwear, belts, leather bags and other products. The stationed cobbler is located at a particular area where their customers come to them with their footwear for servicing.

Type 3 the “mobile cobbler” -  the commonest of the three types found in Accra. Just like their name suggest, they move from one area to  another with their small wooden box in search of customers. Comparatively, the mobile cobbler makes the least income of the three. They also provide similar services as the stationed cobbler, however they move to their customers rather than their customers coming to them.

Despite their significant roles in the informal sector, cobblers are confronted with numerous problems in addition to their low income and living conditions in Accra. Key among them is the poor housing and accommodation conditions due to the expensive rents coupled with higher initial deposits requested by landlords aside the overwhelming utility bills. Also, most of these cobblers are not able to access quality health care as a result of their low income levels since majority of them do not enrol on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) even though they are aware of it. As a result, they reside in the informal settlements which comes with challenges due to poor sanitation and congestion. Despite all of the difficulties that they face, an overwhelming number of cobblers are of the view that migrating to the city was not a wrong choice since they believe that it has led to improvements in their living standards. 

The Unseen South-South Movement
With the search for employment and better living conditions being some of the most prominent reasons for migration especially amongst rural folks in Ghana, rural-urban migration is perceived as a key strategy for survival by most young adults. Most migration studies focus on those who move from the North to the South of Ghana. It is noteworthy that chunk of these cobblers migrate from rural areas in southern Ghana to Accra in search of employment. This is as a result of pockets of poverty found within rural areas within the southern part of Ghana where farming is becoming less lucrative. Low skills and insufficient start-up capital, coupled with the poor job availability, mean that many find work in the informal sector. The urban informal sector has remained the major cushion for a majority of unemployed individuals by providing them with employment opportunities.

One cobbler, Mawuli, said:

“I migrated from Ho to Accra mainly in search of employment, as I saw many of my colleagues migrate to the city to improve upon their living conditions and that of their families back home. Before migrating into the capital city, I engaged in crop farming but could not make enough income from produce to support my family. This was as a result of the high cost of fertilizers, limited access to land and our localized system of farming which did not enable me to engage in large scale farming activities.  After a long but unfruitful search for employment in Accra and the quest to survive, I learnt the job of mending and polishing footwear. Even though this isn’t my preferred choice of work, in order to survive here I hang on this hand-to-mouth life as a cobbler till I get a relatively better paying job.”

Just like Mawuli, most young male adults migrate to Accra with the hope of finding their dream occupations. When all efforts to search for employment seemed futile, some find other means of survival, of which becoming a cobbler is one. Being a cobbler requires less skills and capital than others. 

The way forward
Other informal sector workers have associations, however cobblers, irrespective of the type, do not. There is the need for a special cobblers’ association to be formed to see to the specific needs, welfare and development of cobblers. With regards to health, it is also important that Ghana Health Sector encourage them to enroll on the National Health Insurance Scheme to be secure in that regard. Acknowledging the fact that Type 1 cobblers are able to manufacture hand-made shoes, it would be expedient on the part of government to enhance their skills to intensify the quality of leather wear.

Zigah, C (2017). “Rural- Urban Migration and its Consequences on Socio­­-Economic Livelihoods:  A Case Study of Cobblers in La-Nkwatanang-Madina Municipal Assembly”, Bachelor’s Dissertation, Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana, Legon.