The Informal Economy in Ghana: A Comparative Perspective

Conference co-hosted by Ghana Statistical Service & WIEGO, October 2005 in Accra, Ghana

The term “informal sector” was coined in Ghana in 1971 by a British anthropologist who was studying the economic activities of low-income communities in Accra. The informal economy, as it is now called and defined, is comprised of self-employment in small unregistered enterprises and wage employment in unregulated and unprotected jobs. In developing countries, informal employment comprises one half to three quarters of non-agricultural employment. In Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, informal employment comprises nearly 80 per cent of non-agricultural employment. In Ghana today, informal employment represents over 90 per cent of total employment.

An international conference on “The Informal Economy in Ghana: A Comparative Perspective” was held at the La Palm Hotel in Accra from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, October 24, 2005. The purpose of the conference was:

  • to highlight the size, composition, and significance of the informal economy in Ghana and other developing countries
  • to identify the needs and constraints faced by the informal workforce, including street vendors, home-based producers, cocoa farmers, and casual day labourers in construction and agriculture
  • to discuss what is being done – and should be done – to address the needs and constraints faced by the informal workforce, including policy responses and organizing efforts

Speakers and discussants at the conference included:

  • Ernest Aryeetey, Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research
  • William Baah-Boateng, University of Ghana
  • Grace Bediako, Ghana Statistical Service
  • James Heintz, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and WIEGO
  • Rudith King, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
  • Abena Oduro, Centre for Economic Policy Analysis
  • Kofi Asamoah, Ghana Trade Union Congress
  • Mary Mabel Tagoe, Kuapa Cocoa Cooperative
  • Rita Abban, Ministry of Private Sector Development

Participants in the conference included representatives from the policy making, research, statistical, and activist communities in Ghana, as well as representatives from a global network called Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO).

Members of the WIEGO network from Ghana, who participated in the international seminar, included:

  • Kofi Asemoah, Ghana Trade Union Congress
  • F.X. Owusu, Ghana Trade Union Congress
  • Grace Bediako, Ghana Statistical Service
  • Rudith King, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology

Members of the WIEGO network from other countries, who also participated in the international seminar, included:

  • Chris Bonner, Director of WIEGO’s Organization and Representation Programme, South Africa
  • Marty Chen, Coordinator of WIEGO and Harvard University, USA
  • Dan Gallin, Global Labour Institute, Switzerland
  • James Heintz, Research Coordinator of WIEGO’s Statistics Programme and
    University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA
  • Renana Jhabvala, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), India
  • Elaine Jones, Director of WIEGO’s Global Markets Programme and Twin Trading, UK
  • Winnie Mitullah, IDS Nairobi, Kenya
  • William Steel, Senior Adviser, World Bank, Uganda
  • Joann Vanek, Director of WIEGO Statistics Programme, USA

Conference Report and Agenda

PowerPoint Files
Marty Chen – The Informal Economy - A Global Perspective
James Heintz – Employment Poverty Reduction
James Heintz – Ghana Labour Force
Rudith King – Findings of Street Vendors Study in Kumasi and Policy Implications
Mary Mabel Tagoe – Organizing and Promoting Fair Trade For Cocoa Producers - The Kuapa Kokoo Experience

Articles of Interest
Ernest Aryeetey and David Peretz – Poverty Reduction Strategy Ghana
James Heintz – Elements of an Employment Framework for Poverty Reduction in Ghana