Country Study: Ghana


The Ghana Country Study outputs are produced by the member-based organization Ghana Trade Union Congress.

Ghana TUC identified domestic workers, street vendors and head porters as the occupational groups for the country study. 

Domestic Workers

The Legal Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA-Ghana, 2003) estimates that there is at least one domestic worker in every household and large houses could have as many as six. While this does not support official statistics from the Ghana Statistical Services, it is supported by general knowledge of domestic workers arrangement in Ghana. Traditional arrangements for domestic workers make it hidden and unaccounted for.  Domestic workers in Ghana usually come from economically deprived households and work for a wide range of households, both rich and poor (LAWA, 2003). They consist of house-helps, gardeners, private security workers, cleaners, laundry men/women, drivers, cooks and nannies among others.

Generally, domestic workers like other workers in Ghana are entitled to constitutional provisions as outlined above. As already noted, specific provisions in the Labour Act however precludes domestic workers from exercising certain rights. Section 44 exempt task workers and domestic workers in private homes from provisions of sections 33 and 34, which provide for a maximum working hours of eight (8) per day or 40 per week and rest periods. This provision as LAWA (2003) noted gives room for abuse.

Section 32 of the Labour Act exempts persons employed in an undertaking in which only members of the family of the employer are employed from provisions under section 31 that “any agreement to relinquish the entitlement to annual leave or to forgo such leave is void”. Given the high use of family relations as domestic workers, such a provision is inappropriate.  On the positive side, the Section 2(1) (h) of the Domestic Violence Act of 2007 (Act 732) include house-helps among the group of persons in a domestic relationship. The Act prohibits all forms of violence occurring in the household environment. This includes acts of physical assault and sexual harassment.

Street Vendors

Street vending in Ghana is predominantly located in urban centres particularly in the major cities. Accurate statistics on street vending, in particular adult street vendors are lacking. Mittulah (2003) in case studies of street vendors in six African countries including Ghana found that the majority of them are women made up of all marital status groups;  though  widows and women who have deserted by their spouses opt for street trade. Men tend to join street trade while young and leave for other jobs but women do so later in their life and continue till old age.

Street vendors are also reported to have very low education.Obiri (1996) and Narfi (1997) found that poverty is the major factor causing street hawking or street living in Ghana and elsewhere. Majority (92.5%) of street vendors in the capital city (Accra) were found to be migrants from the six regions- central (17.5 %), Ashanti (28.8 %), Eastern (25 %), Brong Ahafo (6.3 %) and Western (5 %) regions. None of the respondents came from the three Northern regions. Only six (7.5 %) were born in the Greater Accra region. On the other hand majority of kayayeis in Ghana are from the northern regions.

Head Porters (“kayayei”)

Head porters (kayayei) in Ghana are notably young women (including adolescent girls) who migrate from the Northern regions to the major cities. The main reason cited for the migration of head porters is poverty in addition to their desire to enhance their living standards. Abject poverty is prevalent in the places where the kayayei come from which tends to push them out to improve their economic position (Opare, 2003). There are also a number of trafficked young women from the North who end up in the kayayei business. 

Kayayeis operate from major city markets, where they assist buyers to carry their shopping to board vehicles. In addition to head porting, most kayayeis provide assistance to shop owners at the markets in stocking and re-stocking their malls, packing and tidying up.

The activities of street vendors and head porters are permitted under only specific situation as prescribed by local government bye-laws. The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Bye-Law (1995) (1) stipulates that the “AMA shall publish in the Gazette a notification of the effect that Street market has been established specifying the name of the street and notify the Ga Mantse”. Bye-law 7 states that “no person shall offer for sale or sell any article in a street market other than in the space of selling allocated to him by the AMA”.

Evidently, the bye-laws are in sharp contrast with current situation in our major cities and towns, where hawkers occupy every street available. One might insinuate that the metropolitan assemblies’ bye-laws are out-dated and need to be brought to date with current economic trends in Ghana. This is validated by the day to day scuffle between assemblies’ guards and hawkers, sometimes leading to bloody assault. Street vendors face harassment from city authorities including seizure of wares. When goods seized, hawkers are fined; and those who fail to settle fine meet prison sentence.  It is widespread in Ghana that some female street hawkers negotiate their way sometimes through sexual favours to law enforcers in return for their seized wares. This is collaborated by Mutillah’s (2005) that women who involve in street vending are  pushed to paying bribes to obtain licenses to operate and in some cases, offer sexual favours to law enforcement officers.