r- Ti CONFERENCE ON "WOMIIi AND
-1.. "7T-M' WELLESLY COLLEGE,
JVIN 2 6, 19?76
Panel on Informal Labour Markets
Nigerian Women in the Labour Force:
Planning for Effective Particioation
In the Development Process
The topic is examined and analysed in three parts:-
1. The introduction, specifying the objectives and strategy
for Nigeria's economic development, with a brief account
of the genesis of inequality in the economy.
2. The current situation of female employment in both the
formal and the informal sectors.
3. Suggestions for planning for more effective participation
of women in the labour market with a conclusion specifying
some areas for further research.
The first part examines the Nigerian labour market in its
social/economic context. It traces the development of the informal
labour market in Nigeria and how this sector come to be female-
dominated. We postulate that the low economic status of women and
their pre-eminent position in the informal sector is only an aspect
of the structural inequalities within the economic and social system.
Given an economy characterized by inequality, the colonial experience,
religion and cultural values provided an ideological rationale for
maintaining the status quo, while at the same time providing the
institutional framework whereby the inequalities are perpetuated.
Furthermore, development planning which ideally should be
an instrument of change and integration, appear to have failed in
rectifying the situation due to the underlying philosophy of planning
which places so much emphasis on marginal productivity and growth
(of the Gross domestic product) rather than general economic welfare
and a policy of full employment. Thus, in the industrialisation
process, capital-intensive methods which tends to yield high pro-
ductivity rates are adopted to the detriment of the largely un-
skilled labour force which forms the bulk of the informal labour
Nevertheless, we suggest that a change in planning strategy
and orientation would only serve to ameliorate inequality and the
low economic status of women. The most potent weapon of change in
any given society is.the acquisition of both political and economic
power through effective organisation.
The second part examines the existing situation of Nigerian
women in the labour force both the formal and the informal sectors.
Social, cultural and statutory barriers to female entry into the
formal sectors are discussed at length in order to reinforce and
explain the predominance of women in the informal sector.
Contrary to the widely held views by historians and social
scientists alike about the economic power and independence of
West African Women (Ghanians and Nigerians in particular) due
to their enterprise and pre-eminence in trade and to a lesser
extent in subsistence agriculture; we posit that the nature and
permutations of the power they wield have not been carefully
delinated. Despite their observed economic enterprise, majority
of them are only nominally self sufficient, and being largely
illiterate and semi-literate they remain in the periphery of the
urban economy. This is not denying that they perform important
functions in the area of commerce.
Methods of increasing the participation rate of women in the
labour force are examined in the third part. Since Nigeria's
economic modernisation is embodied in her development plans, we
argue that these plans should not only attempt to intergrate the
various sectors of the economy and segments of society, but also,
it should reflect the increasing economic role of women recognizing
their dual role as mothers and workers and the implications of this
for economic organisation.
Various policy suggestions emerged from these three sections,
particularly in terms of government's social and Economic policies -
investment and manpower policies, educational policies, agricultural
policies. Educational policy:-y is especially highlighted as it
forms an important condition for entry into effective participation
in the formal labour market.
We conclude by advocating the development of better information
systems and statistics as a sine qua non for research in many other
aspects of women in development. At present most policy decisions
on women in the development process are made in an information
vacuum. The dearth of statistics as we experienced in the prepara-
tion of this paper, clearly hampers scientific evaluation.
Any attempt to plan for systematic integration of women in
the development process must be based on factual information on
women in society. Some of the areas we identified as needing fur-
ther research include:
(a) problems and prospects of women in entrepreneurial
activities particularly in the field of business -
what types of business do they undertake, the size
and capitalisation of such businesses. What problems
do they encounter in obtaining credit facilities for
starting up business and what are the incentives
(b) The place of women in agricultural processing and
(c) Micro studies of women in modern industries
(d) Micro studies of women in the professions. It is again
emphasised that these areas of research and many others will be
difficult to undertake unless methods of obtaining and computing
population and other statistical indbiators bearing in mind the
social/economic context are improved.