Ivory Coast Table of Contents

Most Ivoirians were members of a traditional agrarian society and virtually all able-bodied adults worked. Just over one third were subsistence farmers who raised little beyond their immediate needs. In 1982 the economically active population numbered approximately 4.3 million, of whom about 47 percent were women. Approximately 85 percent of this population engaged in farming, herding, fishing, or forestry, as opposed to nearly 90 percent in 1962. At independence, agriculture accounted for 45 percent of all wage earners; 40 percent were employed in industry, commerce, and services, and 15 percent were government employees. In 1960 unskilled workers constituted approximately 67 percent of the entire labor force; skilled workers and technicians, 19 percent; white-collar workers, 11 percent; and executive and managerial positions, 3 percent. In 1982 unskilled workers made up about 80 percent of the work force; skilled workers, 17 percent; and managerial and professional workers, 3 percent. According to a 1985 census, the largest employer was the government, which employed 110,670 people (not including the armed forces), or approximately 7 percent of the nonagricultural work force. Of these workers, 81,561 were in the civil service, and the rest were in state-owned companies.

In 1968 the government created the Office for the Promotion of Ivoirian Enterprise (Office de Promotion de l'Enterprise Ivoirienne--OPEI) to reduce--or appear to reduce--the country's dependence on foreign entrepreneurial expertise. The OPEI was to help develop or improve the efficiency of Ivoirian commercial, industrial, and agricultural enterprises by providing studies, statistics, administrative assistance, and training for local entrepreneurs. In fact, the OPEI focused only on small-scale entrepreneurs, such as bakers, carpenters, tailors, plumbers, and electricians. These efforts could not--and apparently were not intended to--produce the high-level managerial expertise that would reduce the country's dependence on expatriate initiative, skills, and technology.

Until the mid-1980s, non-Africans--mostly French--still dominated the managerial and professional cadres. In 1973 the government set up the National Commission on Ivoirianization to encourage the appointment of Ivoirians to managerial posts throughout the economy. Although Ivoirianization of management was the announced purpose of the commission, Ivoirianization was not to be implemented at the expense of efficiency. Consequently, most Ivoirianization programs in commerce and industry were voluntary and produced only modest results. According to official figures, in 1979 Ivoirians held only 23 percent of senior management positions and 44 percent of junior management posts in all private, public, and parastatal enterprises. By 1982 the percentage of Ivoirians in senior management positions had actually dropped slightly to 21 percent; for junior-level management posts, the percentage had risen to 52 percent. Among the country's 300 largest companies, Ivoirians still filled only 29 percent of top management posts, compared with 67.4 percent that were filled by non-Africans. The remaining 3.6 percent were filled by non-Ivoirian Africans. In addition, many Europeans worked as mechanics, technicians, and shop owners, underscoring Côte d'Ivoire's continued reliance on foreign initiative and skills.

The government also employed a large number of European teachers and technical experts known as coopérants. Most were recruited by the French Ministry of Cooperation, but others were hired directly by the Ivoirian government through private, usually French, firms on a contract basis. The Ivoirian government was responsible for 80 percent of the total cost of those hired under official cooperation agreements and for 100 percent of the cost of those hired under private contract. Pressures for Ivoirianization and the economic recession of the early 1980s prompted a gradual reduction in the number of coopérants from a peak of 4,000 in 1980 to 3,200 in 1984. Over the next two years, as economic conditions worsened and as more Ivoirian university graduates took over teaching jobs in secondary schools, this number fell by 1,000.

The privately recruited foreign experts were employed mainly as technical advisers in government ministries and in state enterprises. As part of a series of austerity measures, the IMF insisted that 585 of the 650 foreign experts on government payrolls be let go. Those foreign experts allowed to stay were in highly specialized areas, such as the petroleum sector and computer technology. Despite the IMF dictum, by the end of 1987 there were still 425 privately recruited foreign experts, costing the government CFA F11 billion annually. In November 1987, the government recommended that these experts be retained only if their presence was "indispensable in certain high technology areas not yet mastered by nationals."

Côte d'Ivoire also depended on foreigners for unskilled labor. Since the early twentieth century, poor migrants from Burkina Faso, Mali, and other parts of West Africa had worked in Côte d'Ivoire as agricultural and construction laborers. Because immigration has been largely uncontrolled, estimates of the number of immigrants have varied by as much as 100 percent, ranging from 1 million to 2 million, and accounted for 70 percent to 80 percent of the unskilled labor force in the rural sector. According to official figures for 1974 (the most recent year for which they were available in 1988), 81.8 percent of the salaried positions in the primary sector (agriculture and raw materials) were filled by nonIvoirian Africans, while only 16.9 percent were filled by Ivoirians. The figures, however, were skewed somewhat by the fact that most Ivoirians in the primary sector were self-employed or were working for family members. The labor force shifted easily between regions and occupational sectors. Surveys have shown that half the migrant farm laborers changed their employment every two months, and even the more permanent wage earners moved freely from job to job in search of higher pay and more attractive working conditions. The greatest movement occurred between the traditional and the modern sectors of the economy, as farmers from subsistence areas took temporary wage employment to meet specific cash needs. This mobility contributed to the lack of training and skills and the low productivity among nonagricultural workers.

Labor Unions

In the 1980s, approximately 100,000 full-time workers, mostly professionals, civil servants, and teachers, belonged to unions. Virtually all unions were under the umbrella of the General Federation of Ivoirian Workers (Union Générale des Travilleurs de Côte d'Ivoire--UGTCI), which was tightly controlled by the party and, by extension, the government. Consequently, the leadership of the UGTCI invariably supported the government in its efforts to promote unity and development, often at the expense of labor. As a political force, the UGTCI exercised little clout.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress