Accepted paper:

The winners and winners of globalisation, but who is winning more? Evidence from a case study on the construction sector in Accra, Ghana


Serena Masino (University of Westminster )
Mavis Akuffobea (CSIR-Science and Technology Policy Research Institute)

Paper short abstract:

The infrastructure boom across Sub-Saharan Africa is associated to a large influx of foreign capital and technology. While this creates opportunities forlocal workers and companies, it also consolidates power dynamics which are difficult to overcome in the absence of appropriate local regulation.

Paper long abstract:

The Sub-Saharan African construction boom underlines the urbanisation trend across the continent; large-scale creation of employment; renewed and extended access to energy, transport, commerce. At the same time, however, the proliferation of foreign companies established itself in an institutional and legislative gap which allows for the co-existence of labour regimes and for the consolidation of casualisation trends in the labour market. This study relies on case-study material from the real estate and construction sectors in the capital city of Ghana, Accra, to investigate the interaction between foreign employers and local employees. Extensive interviews with mangers, workers, and institutional actors help uncover a web of emerging labour and industrial relations and a matrix of winners and losers in the process. In particular, both local labourers and local companies can be winners and losers at the same time, when subjected to the flexibilisation and casualisation forces of globalisation. Many foreign companies are found to "export" or bring with them home-country labour regimes, while hands-off local institutions effectively allow them to do so. This means that sub-optimal labour standards and work practices often prevail, in violation of local labour legislation. In addition, most companies maintain a lean core worker structure while flexibly and discontinuously tapping into an army of causal labourers whenever production pressures increase. This allows foreign contractors to stay in business in an increasingly competitive real estate and construction sector; but it also consolidates a pattern of insecure and unrewarding employment for the poorest and least empowered segments of the workforce.

panel Econ28
Building and connecting Africa: Infrastructure construction and economic development in the XXIst century