Women are finding their place alongside men in making vital decisions that will affect the lives of people in their societies with today’s woman significantly contributing to political, economic and social discourse (World Bank, 2012:1). This notwithstanding, norms and attitudes regarding the role of women and men in education and employment continue to limit the contribution that women can make to the social and economic progress through productive work (UNGEI, 2012).
According to the ILO, gender equality at the workplace is not just the right thing to do but that it is good for business. There is growing awareness and evidence that gender equality boosts enterprise productivity, spurs economic growth and improves the welfare of families. The inclusion of educated and skilled women in the economy is expected to expand the productive labor force that can engage in innovation and compete globally.
Youth unemployment is currently one of the greatest development challenges facing countries globally, including those in Africa. Youth are often depicted as a group of people with full potential for increasing productivity but with less opportunities of accessing the labor market. Africa is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’ where the share of young people in the working age population is growing as a result of reduction in mortality rate with increasing high fertility rate (Canning et al., 2015). Inadequate education, lack of skills, and mismatch of skills and poor attitude towards work are among the reasons advanced for not being able to access the labor market. In Africa, youth unemployment is high among those who are educated and come from high earned income families. However, unemployment of educated young people has received little attention in the literature. In various studies on youth and employment (Ansell 2005, ILO 2010), there is acknowledgment of young graduates becoming unemployed. However, there is a dearth of systematic evidence on the depth of the patterns, causes, and consequences. Empirical studies on young female suggests that they are at a disadvantage in finding employment especially in the formal private sectors with most of the reasons being the mismatch in the labor market, insufficient effort in job search and inadequate skills (Lassibille et al 2001, World Bank 2007). It is without a surprise that youth employment is now a top policy priority in most countries across all regions, and at the international level has been translated into the development of a global strategy for youth employment and embedded into the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The global number of employed youth continues to decrease with the current global youth employment-to-population ratio (EPR) — the share of the youth working-age population that is employed — falling from 44.0 percent in 2007 to 41.2 percent in 2014, representing a decline of 2.8 percentage
Similarly, gender equality in youth employment is another top policy challenge facing countries globally. In 2014, male youth employment-to-population ratio was estimated at about 48.2 percent compared to female youth employment-to-population ratio of only 33.7 percent globally. For Africa, male youth employment-to-population ratio was estimated at about 47.7 percent compared to female youth employment-to-population ratio of only 39.4 percent. The social exclusion of the female youth in employment in Africa is severe, given that the unemployment issue was a key catalyst that triggered the Arab Spring in North Africa from January 2011, which led to the fall of the governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Gender disparities in terms of education and the participation of female youth in economic activities have become important issues for African countries in particular. This is partly because of the susceptible negative effects that can arise from the exclusion of the female youth in employment on poverty reduction (Ward et al., 2010).
Enhanced gender equality in employment can lead to significant macroeconomic gains, especially higher GDP (Cuberes and Teignier, 2012, Elborgh-Woytek et al., 2013). Studies have argued that the employment of women on an equal basis would allow companies to make better use of the available talent pool, with potential growth implications (Barsh and Yee, 2012). Equal and better opportunities for women to earn income has been studied to be one of the important poverty-reducing factors in developing economies (Heintz, 2006); while higher female labor force participation and greater earnings by women could result in higher expenditure on school enrollment for children, including girls, potentially triggering a virtuous cycle, when educated women become female role models (Aguirre et al., 2012, Steinberg and Nakane, 2012).
In approaching the wider objective of analyzing the relationship in gender, labor, and education, the study aims at investigating the factors conditioning female labor participation with specific distinctions drawn between individual characteristics, household composition, labour market (demand side) and cultural factors in Africa.