In common with other agricultural economies of West Africa, virtually all Ivory Coasters between the ages of 15 and 50 work. Most are farmers who raise little beyond their immediate needs. Wage earners constitute 11 percent of the total labor force, with about 6 percent of them in nonagricultural pursuits. Few women work other than on farms and as traders. Although law prohibits employment of children, most children on farms work as part of the family economic unit (see ch. 5, Family).
Since farm work is erratic, there is considerable underemployment. The government has sought to eliminate this through diversification of agriculture, so that different crops will be grown at different times of the year, and through the enlistment of free labor on community projects during the slack farm periods (see ch. 18, Agriculture). Unemployment exists only occasionally when there is a lessening of demand in a specific location or industry. On the whole, there is a shortage of ready manpower in the country, and large numbers of workers from Upper Volta and other neighboring countries are imported through formal and informal channels to meet the demand. The shortage of skilled manpower is particularly acute.
Africanization is proceeding at a slower pace than in other African countries because Houphouët-Boigny has refused to permit nationalist pressures to undermine productivity and efficiency. The government has stressed the training of Africans to a standard it considers comparable to the European before replacing Europeans by Africans. In 1962 the French still outnumbered Africans in top positions in industry and commerce, although in government the ratio was shifting in favor of the Africans. In the middle range of wage earners, both Africans and Europeans were found as semiskilled and skilled workers, clerks and assistant managers, and it was in these positions that most of the pressure for Africanization was being applied (see ch. 6, Social Structure). At the bottom level of wage earners, requiring little or no skill, almost all positions were held by Africans.
Government policy toward the organization and regulation of labor and the protection of workers closely followed the French pattern. Unions are permitted, but not especially encouraged. Workers are permitted to strike, but labor disputes must be submitted to arbitration through government-established channels. Workers are protected by