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2008 AEC - A comparison of rural wage employment in Ghana, Malawi and Nigeria with other developing countries


This paper explores rural wage employment and its potential as a mechanism for improving the well being of the rural population in three African countries: Ghana, Malawi and Nigeria. Using nationally representative household survey data, the paper compares the experiences of these three countries with 11 other developing countries from around the world. We find remarkable consistency between the rural labor markets in these 14 countries. We find that the sector of employment (agricultural or non-agricultural) and the overall household livelihood strategy appear to be of limited importance in determining whether a household uses wage employment as a pathway out of poverty. Rather, high-productivity wage employment appears to be linked to the underlying assets of the household and its individual members. In particular, educational and infrastructure investment are critical for providing opportunities in the labour market that lead to higher wages. Gender is very relevant in terms of participation in labour markets as well as in wages earned, indicating that special attention be given to the gender consequences of any employment policy.

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