Academic journal article Population

Too Poor to Marry? Urban Employment Crisis and Men's First Entry into Union in Burkina Faso

Academic journal article Population

Too Poor to Marry? Urban Employment Crisis and Men's First Entry into Union in Burkina Faso

Article excerpt

As in most sub-Saharan countries, the urban labour market in Burkina Faso has deteriorated over the last fifteen years (Gaufryau and Maldonado, 2001; Diabre, 1998; Sanou, 1993), and young people seem to have been especially hard hit. Unemployment was already higher in this section of the population and has sharply increased since 1980, and the quality of the jobs occupied by young city-dwellers has also declined (Calves and Schoumaker, 2004). The new cohorts of young city-dwellers, even the well-qualified, are increasingly forced to rely on ill-paid insecure jobs in the informal sector (Calves and Schoumaker, 2004; Charmes, 1996).

This deterioration in employment conditions for young people in Burkina Faso's cities may have major repercussions on other aspects of their lives, and particularly first union formation. As elsewhere in Africa, the marital behaviour of Burkinabe men has been studied less than that of women (Hertrich, 1997) and we know little of the potential repercussions of the labour market on the male marriage rate (NRC, 2005). The few quantitative studies on the determinants of marriage among African men have, however, shown that the later age at first union among young cohorts of city-dwellers is largely due to the economic difficulties caused by their restricted access to employment (Antoine et al., 1995; Marcoux and Piché, 1998; Lardoux, 2004). The fact that marriage is increasingly unaffordable for young people has also been described in a number of qualitative studies of African cities (Sévédé-Bardem, 1997; Meekers and Calvès, 1997; Silberschmidt, 1992). In addition to the timing of men's first union, some studies have shown that the deterioration in economic conditions has caused changes in the nature of this first union formation. In Bamako, for example, faced with economic hardship, cohorts of young males are tending not only to delay their first union but also to postpone the various wedding celebrations and give priority to those that are "of social importance" (Marcoux et al., 1995). A recent study on entering adult life in urban areas in Burkina Faso has also shown that the process of forming a first union is longer among young cohorts of female city-dwellers than it was for their predecessors (Calvès et al., 2007).

The present study is designed to describe more closely the changes in men's entry into a first union in the context of a declining labour market in Burkina Faso's two main cities. Using data from-the urban population of a life event history survey in 2000, the first part analyses the changes in the timing and the process of union formation among young urban men. The second part covers the effect of men's employment status on their entry into a first union and the trends across cohorts.

1. Worsening job prospects in cities

Burkina Faso is one of the world's poorest countries and its economy has declined over the last fifteen years. Although "one cannot really speak of a collapse in the economy" (Diabre, 1998, p. 29) as in some other countries of sub-Saharan Africa, a number of sectors were clearly in difficulty as early as the late 1980s (Chambas et al., 1999). To cope with this deterioration, in 1991 the country adopted a structural adjustment programme that included the restructuring and privatization of semi-public enterprises, reform of the public sector and devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994. This restrictive economic programme, combined with the slowdown in the economy and the urban population increase profoundly altered the urban labour market. The reform of the public sector froze wages and cut back recruitments (Gaufryau and Maldonado, 2001). Restructuring and privatization also led to business closures and lay-offs in the semi-public sector (Diabré, 1998; Sanou, 1993). Although it is hard to evaluate, the share of the informal sector in the country's economy appears to have grown in recent years. According to Charmes (1996), 77% of jobs, excluding farm work, were in the informal sector in Burkina Faso in 1990, compared with 70% in 1980. …

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