Informalising the Formal: Women in Ghana's Banking Sector

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 1:02 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Nana Akua ANYIDOHO , University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana
Akosua ADOMAKO AMPOFO , Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana
Despite the conventional policy wisdom that formal work more closely approximates “decent”  work, the process of informalization of the Ghanaian economy increasingly makes difficult a straightforward dichotomy between ‘good’ formal work and ‘bad’ informal work.  The paper discusses the nature and impact of the use of employment agencies in the banking sector. We argue that the activities of employment agencies have introduced informality into an area of work that was quintessentially formal.  We examine the impact of emplpyment agencies on work conditions and work cultures, highlighting the ways in which female bank workers experience these new sets of conditions.  We find that female employees hired through employment agencies experience conditions of work that resemble conditions in the informal economy in terms of contracts, security of tenure, wages and channels of negotiation or redress. We link the advent of employment agencies and the kind of labour relations in which they participate to the macroeconomic reforms that Ghana has undertaken which are themselves part of a global phenomenon of economic liberalisation. These processes connect the experiences of female agency workers in Ghana with women in other parts of the world whose work conditions are becoming increasingly informalized, thus challenging the idea that women’s progress on the economic front can be charted by their entry into formal work. We rely on survey data among banks in Ghana, as well as interviews with both full time/permanent and agency workers in these banks and find that while agency work has opened new opportunities for women in the banking sector, it has also introduced new strictures and transformed banking culture more generally.