Political Economy of Internal Migration and Labor-Seeking Behavior of Poor Youth in Ghana

Joseph KWEKU Assan and Dinar D. Kharisma


Recent discussion of youth migration in West Africa has focused on movement across the Sahara into North Africa and Southern Europe. This paper explores the impacts of the current forms of internal migration and shifts in labor-/employment-seeking behavior of youth within national boundaries in the African context using Ghana as a case study. The process is perceived to have been deepened by neoliberal programs and the continued adoption of extensive market liberalization and associated fiscal policies. The analysis of the study provides evidence of internal mobility of youth seeking employment within the boundaries of Ghana. This is in contrast to recent dominant discussions in the migration literature that tend to focus on migration of West African youth across the Sahara to Northern Africa and Southern Europe. This study utilizes data from the Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS) (Ghana Statistical Service [GSS], 2014a), which covered a nationwide sample of 18,000 households. This analysis centers on four administrative regions in Ghana that record the highest numbers of young internal migrants: Greater Accra, Western, Brong Ahafo, and Ashanti regions. The study shows that employment rates among migrant youth in urban destinations remain comparatively higher than those of nonmigrants. Out-migration therefore provides an avenue for unemployed youth to gain access to wider employment opportunities outside their homes or places of birth. Also, while migrations tend to follow a predominantly north-to-south trajectory, there is evidence of south-north and south-south movements, as well as movements to locations that are not necessarily urban. Conversely, our study found that young internal migrants are often engaged in less stable, noncontract employment, making them vulnerable to employer abuses and exploitation.

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