Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Impact of Female Employment on Fertility in Dakar (Senegal) and Lomé (Togo)

Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Impact of Female Employment on Fertility in Dakar (Senegal) and Lomé (Togo)

Article excerpt


This paper investigates the impact of female employment on fertility in two urban contexts in sub-Saharan Africa: Dakar (Senegal) and Lomé (Togo). The hypothesis that wage employment and maternal obligations are incompatible seems to be corroborated in Lomé, where women are likely to consider work as a legitimate alternative to their role as a mother or spouse. Being involved in economic activity is a real option and can therefore impact upon their reproductive life. By contrast, in Dakar working does not seem to hinder family formation. Greater involvement of women in the labour force is not the main reason for fertility decline in Dakar. These findings illustrate how important it is to consider social gender-specific roles in order to accurately determine the influence of female employment on reproductive life.

1. Introduction

It is recognized that women's employment plays an important role in the variation in fertility levels within and between countries (Becker 1993; Rindfuss and Brewster 1996; Shockaert 2005; Standing 1983). As a result, the relationship between female economic activity and fertility is one of the most studied areas in fertility research. The participation of women in the economic market is presumed to compete with their family obligations, since mothers are often the only ones responsible for household duties. Accordingly, a negative relationship is generally expected between female labour force participation and fertility at the micro level, although there is controversy about the causal direction of the relationship between the two phenomena (Cramer 1980; Felmlee 1993; Stolzenberg and Waite 1977). While a consistent negative relationship between women's paid work and fertility has been found at the micro level in developed countries (Budig 2003; Lloyd 1991), no clear pattern has emerged in developing countries (Lloyd 1991; Piché, Poirier, and Neill 1989). In particular, in sub- Saharan Africa it has been suggested that no relationship should exist between labour force status and fertility because of limited wage employment, extended family networking, and cheap domestic labour, as well as traditional social norms regarding gender roles and the division of household duties between men and women. However, it is likely that these mediating factors vary across different settings in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby resulting in the discrepancy in the female employment-fertility relationship in this region (Oppong 1988, 1991).

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the influence of female employment on fertility in two different contexts, Dakar in Senegal and Lomé in Togo, in order to assess whether women face a conflict between their professional and reproductive roles here and, if so, to examine the possibly varying forms of this conflict. There are two reasons why these capital cities are particularly attractive sites for examining the employment-fertility relationship in sub-Saharan Africa. First, unlike rural areas, where employment opportunities for women are largely restricted to unpaid family work or poorly paid jobs requiring limited skills, Dakar and Lomé are both urban areas which offer opportunities for women - or at least for better-educated women - to be involved in paid, non-agricultural work outside the home. In both cities, where economic hardship has greatly reduced men's ability to fulfil the breadwinner's role, a larger number of women are involved or more involved in paid economic activities (Adjamagbo et al. 2006; Locoh 1996). Females' economic contribution to household incomes has been growing and may correspond to an improvement in their social status. However, the fact that women are increasingly called upon to supplement household incomes, given men's declining earning power, is likely to have implications for their family lives.

Second, the two societies exhibit different cultural contexts in terms of gender relations, resulting in different sociological meanings for women's economic participation outside home. …

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