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Examining the effects of household structure on female labour force participation in Cameroon

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Background of the study

Female labour force participation is mainly driven by the value of women’s market wages versus the value of their non-market time. Labour force participation by women varies considerably across countries.

To understand this international variation, one must further consider differences across countries in institutions, non-economic factors such as cultural norms, and public policies.

Such differences provide important insights into what actions countries might take to further increase women’s participation in the labour market.

The growth of female employment is one of the major socio-economic changes in most societies.

A changed division of labour within couples, evolving social norms, technological changes and the expansion of education are drivers of this transition from unpaid housework to paid work. The increasing income earned by women has consequences for household income.

Household income includes all income sources by all household members and takes into account the sharing of resources among household members.

Because it illustrates the economic well-being of individuals, household income inequality is a key inequality measure.

Female employment boosts the level of household income, but the effect on its distribution is not a priori clear.

Whether more female employment is good or bad for household income inequality depends on which women work more.

If it is mostly women in low income households who work, inequality should decrease, whereas if it is mostly women in high-income households who increase their working hours, inequality should increase. Although most recent contributions find egalitarian effects at the household level, previous empirical analyses have shown mixed results.

Until the early 1970s, studies of the labour force have concentrated on the developed countries. Also, most of these studies emphasized the determinants of the size of the labour force and the patterns of labour force participation placing emphasis on the personal, gender, household and labour market characteristics, and some relevant demographic factors such as fertility, urbanization and migration.

The theoretical and conceptual frameworks of these studies provided the platform for subsequent studies of the labour force, largely initiated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in the developing countries in the 1970s.

While the studies of the labour force carried out in the developing countries varied considerably in terms of their explanatory and labour force variables as well as in the statistical techniques adopted, they provide a rational framework for further analytical works on the labour force.

Boserup, (1970) argued that in developing countries, the bulk of women’s work takes place in nonmarket activities in the home or the informal sector. However, in some developing countries, women participation in the labour force has increased due to three reasons.

First, with economic development and the ensuing shift of population from rural and agricultural sectors, more women choose to participate in the labour force. Second, due to the higher level of education, women tend to participate in greater numbers in order to capture returns on their investment. Third, falling real incomes of households and rising poverty in certain countries seem to have persuaded women to participate in the labour force in greater numbers.

In Africa and most third world countries, the place of the woman was known to be in the kitchen and also for childbearing. But as pointed out, evolutions in human rights and the deteriorating conditions of families today have made this phenomenon to become mundane and outdated such that women have become full members of the labour force.

A significant trend has been growing self-employment among women (and men), especially among those who have failed to secure paid jobs. According to the United Nations (2000a), the proportion of self-employed among non-agricultural women workers doubled in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding Southern Africa) from 44 per cent in 1970 to 90 in 1990. The proportion also increased in Northern Africa.

In Cameroon, the World Development Indicators (2013), shows that the literacy rate among females of 15 years and above is 68 per cent. Fewer girls are enrolled in secondary schools compared to boys with an 80 per cent ratio of female to male secondary enrolment. Over half of adult women participate in the labour force that mostly involves work in agriculture and education in primary and secondary school teaching.

Following studies carried out by the Department of Human Resource of the University of Yaoundé-II in analysing female labour market behaviour in urban Cameroon, it was revealed that out of 2096 women aged 18-64 living in Yaoundé and Douala 59.92 per cent are working and 43.08 per cent not working. Taking into consideration the different sectors of the labour market, it appears that the informal sector has the highest proportion of women in Cameroon (27.3 per cent in Yaoundé and 25.71 per cent in Douala) (ECAM III).

Indeed, the formal segment of Cameroon’s labour market could be said to be male-dominated because employment in that sector is contingent on participants’ education and skill acquisition, among others, requirements that tend to be met more by males than females for various reasons

(notably financial, institutional and cultural). In urban Cameroon, taking into consideration the different sectors of the labour market, the urban labour market is characterized by two homogenous sectors (public and formal private), and a heterogeneous one, the informal sector (Abessolo, 2001).

The informal sector comprises self-employed, unpaid family-workers and casual-workers with reduced job security, hazardous working conditions and poor working environments. The economic participation of women is important not only for lowering the disproportionate levels of poverty among women but also as an important step toward raising household income and encouraging economic development in countries as a whole.

Problem statement

Regarded as one of the important measures of improving women’s social status and boosting gender equality, female labour participation and its relevant issues draw attention from economists, sociologists, and anthropologists. Literature reports that for women, entering the job market raises their income, heightens their status, and even reduces fertility; thus, women’s participation in the labour force has higher social implications than it does for men (Anderson & Eswaran, 2009). Some feminists believe that the gap between male and female labour participation reflects the discrimination level of women.

Before the Chinese economic reform, the female labour participation rate in China was far higher than in most other countries at the same time; however, the rate declined gradually after 1978 (Charmes, 1999). As illustrated in Figure 1, the gap in labour participation increased from 11% in 2000 to 14.5% in 2010, from which we can infer that there were fewer employment opportunities for women than for men.

Some studies claim that market-driven economic reform largely contributes to the decreasing participation rate of women in the labour force in China. Li and Li (2008) argued that such market-driven economic reform meant that employment decisions were solely dependent on efficiency, which has undermined the nation’s protection and support for women in the labour market.

Li et al. (1999) posited that Chinese economic reform widened the income gap between husband and wife, making it a “rational” decision for men to work externally and for women to remain in the home. Yao and Tan (2005) reported that women with a lower level of education became vulnerable to economic transition in the efficiency-oriented labour market.

A number of studies have been carried out in this area and that includes the works of; Abdullah and Bakar (2011), Verena et al (2011), Aminu (2010), H’madoun (2010), Fatma and Feyza (2009), Sackey (2005), Aromolaran (2004) Serumaga-ZakeandKotze(2004), Guiso, Sapienza and Zingales (2003), Serumaga-Zake and Naude (2003), Bhorat and McCord (2003), Engelhardt, Kogel and Prskawetz (2001), Pampel (2001). However, with careful evaluation of these studies, we observed that most of these studies have focused on very limited time periods such as one year.

Hence, we cannot say with certainty that they evaluate and pin-point the correlates of the changes in African women’s labour force participation. More so, some of the studies employed a purely descriptive approach which does not show the relative impacts of the determinants on female labour force participation and others used household survey data with the help of probit and logit models which again are subject to numerous limitations.

In this paper, we aim to contribute to the debate by investigating the effects of women’s labour force participation using data provided by the Cameroon labour force survey 2010 with the help of descriptive statistic and the IVPROBIT model to capture the endogeneity element of the household structure and its effect on female labour force participation in Cameroon.

Research Questions

The main research question is what is the effect of household structure on female labour force participation in Cameroon?

Also, specific research questions are:

  1. What are the factors determining the household structure and female labour force participation in Cameroon?
  2. How does household structure influence female labour force participation?
  3. How do the effects of level of education impact female labour force participation?
  4. What recommendations can be suggested on the bases of our analysis?

Research Objective

To address these issues, the main objective is to examine the effects of household structure on female labour force participation in Cameroon.

We also have the following specific objectives:

  1. To examine the factors determining household structure and female labour force participation in Cameroon.
  2. To explore the effect of household structure on female labour force participation.
  3. Evaluate the effects of levels of education on female labour force participation in Cameroon.
  4. Derive policy recommendations on the basis of our analysis.
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