Language and employment in Ghana: capturing the multilingual reality



Reilly C, Scandurra R, ResCue E, Hermannsson K & Gayton A (2023) Language and employment in Ghana: capturing the multilingual reality. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 44 (9), pp. 807-826.

Research on economic activity in Africa consistently ignores the importance of individuals’ linguistic repertoires. We argue that an important contributing factor to the persistence of this lacuna is the lack of visibility of language in the social and economic data that is collected by governments through social surveys. We examine the specific case of language use at work in Ghana. Through this we aim to demonstrate the importance of improving understanding of the role of language in the economy and assess the potential for improving visibility of languages in the socioeconomic data sources used to inform public policy. This case is interesting as, prima facie, education policy in Ghana appears misaligned, prioritising the acquisition of English and skills formation for further study, with less focus on entry into informal employment. Eighty percent of the Ghanaian workforce is in informal employment; this is a much less English-intensive work context than the formal sector, which itself is not a monolingual environment. We suggest that current language policies within the country undervalue the potential which multilingual language skills have for employment; moreover, we emphasise that multiple languages are visible within the labour market, and suggest strategies for more effectively capturing this visibility.

Labour Market; multilingualism; language at work; survey; Ghana

Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development: Volume 44, Issue 9

Publication date31/12/2023
Publication date online30/06/2023
Date accepted by journal09/03/2023
PublisherInforma UK Limited

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Dr Colin Reilly

Dr Colin Reilly

Lecturer in Linguistics, English Studies