A shrinking workforce in Burkina Faso has implications far and wide for the economic and social state of the country. Political instability and limited natural resources have exacerbated the country’s poor financial state. Following a coup d’état in January 2022, Burkina Faso ended up in political chaos once again. Though the country has many transitional bodies which seek to aid the transition, the instability and harsh economic conditions make progress slow and difficult. A shrinking workforce in Burkina Faso makes progress forward difficult while economic and social progress itself makes tackling the high unemployment rate challenging.
The main issue is the downward trend in employment. The labor force participation rate has been steadily declining since the 1990s, meaning that the progress of the last three decades has been lost. Technological progress particularly has been slow and costly and the country lags behind its African and global competitors.
Primarily, the country’s workforce struggles to keep up with its growing population. Current estimates show that the population is growing at a rate of over 3%, yet more than 40% of the population lives in poverty. Seven out of 10 people are under the age of 30, but the working age population is weak and underdeveloped. In 2005, approximately 89.1% of the working-age population had employment. However, in 2018, the World Bank reported that only nearly 45% of the working-age population in Burkina Faso was participating in the labor force in 2018. Certainly, the problem is not as simple as it seems.
The country faces problems as the underdeveloped workforce and infrastructure struggle to cope with the growing population. Sectors such as health care have borne the brunt of the lack of resources. Government expenditure on health care in Burkina Faso has nearly disappeared. Even before the lack of investment in health care, there were not enough health care workers to support the system and the needs of the people. Children and infants experienced significant hardship as a result of this.
Children have suffered differently. The Department of Labor reported that nearly half of all children in Burkina Faso work as of 2012. Though unemployment is high, child labor is cheap and exploitable, so children comprise a significant portion of the workforce in the country. Activists have the daunting task of reorienting a shrinking workforce in Burkina Faso so that fewer children and more adults enter the workforce.
One positive sign is that Burkina Faso’s post-COVID-19 economic rebound has been successful. The country grew an estimated 8.5% in 2021. Though the 2022 coup caused some to question the financial stability and prospects of the country, a high growth rate, to 6.5% in 2021, shows that Burkina Faso is resilient. Many believe that an investment in gold mining and related infrastructure is the way forward for Burkina Faso. Gold is Burkina Faso’s top export to the United States. Some believe that gold will be lucrative in the future and will be able to support a growing workforce. However, the reliance on gold will be challenging, as those in Burkina Faso will need to be stringent and careful about the labor requirements and fulfillments that it will need to strengthen its workforce.
The country is eligible for what is known as “preferential trade benefits” under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which means that global partners recognize the need to invest in and prioritize the country. Ultimately, strong and positive growth is possible on the trend that Burkina Faso is on at the moment. Progress will need to be cautious and prudent, but many are hopeful that a stronger workforce and therefore a stronger country is possible.
– Lara Drinan
Photo: Wikipedia Commons