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Women's Early Labour Market Transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa

What limits women's ability to become financially self-sufficient from an early age in Africa? This project will examine the factors that affect young women's transitions from school to work, how they choose their first job, what drives the timing of when they leave full-time education, and how early work experiences and having children can affect their future employment options. The research will be carried out in six countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Some of the key strategies for increasing women's economic empowerment in low- and middle-income countries include expanding women's opportunities for full and productive paid employment, and improving their access to education. There is a strong commitment among governments to address both youth unemployment and gender inequality in education. But there is little evidence on what underlies the challenges young girls face. Research is also thin on whether and how early labour market and fertility experiences can have substantial lifelong consequences for their economic prospects. This project seeks to fill this evidence gap. This research is supported under the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) program. GrOW is a five-year, multi-funder partnership of the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and IDRC. With a focus on low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, GrOW aims to support policies and interventions that improve women's livelihoods and contribute to societal well-being. One component of the program will support 11 projects addressing barriers to women's economic empowerment and gender gaps in earnings and productivity. This project is among them, selected following a competitive call. The project team will cultivate close relationships and regular interaction with stakeholders in each country to raise awareness and buy-in, and to enrich policy discussions. The findings will be particularly relevant in light of the heightened policy interest on youth employment in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. The project will seek to -highlight the factors that influence young women's decisions about the first full-time economic activity they undertake; -identify factors affecting young women's fertility experiences; -investigate the extent to which working as a child affects the school-to-work transition; -clarify how early labour market and early fertility experiences affect women's employment later in life; and -build a strong relationship with national and international stakeholders to ensure uptake of the results. The University of Sussex and the University of Nairobi will coordinate the project.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
36 months
IDRC Officer
Martha Melesse
Total Funding
CA$ 787,972.00
South of Sahara
Employment and Growth
Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women
Institution Country
United Kingdom
Project Leader
Andy McKay
University of Sussex