In many societies, (higher) education has been equated with a form of professional formation whose focus lies on the requirements of enterprises. At the same time, a reduced individual dividend for education (that is, a decreasing value of titles and degrees because of an increasing level of education throughout the whole society) has become observable. To what extent are opportunities in the labor market dependent on education and (to what extent) has this connection loosened during the last decades? Besides university studies, which alternative routes are likely to lead to a successful career? How are the factors of inter-generational inequality, on the one hand, and education and the labor market, on the other, intertwined?
Conference Paper to be presented by Augustin Emane
Augustin Emane is Associated Professor at the University of Nantes. He teaches Labor Law and Social Security Law. His research focuses on occupational risks in France, labor law in France and in French-speaking countries in Africa, and health systems in Europe and Africa. He also works on the transfer of Western legal categories in Africa and labor law in Brazil.
This paper examines Gabon, a country with a high level of schooling (more than 80%) compared with the average in other African countries (less than 50%), but where social inequalities and the level of unemployment are rather high. It is this paradox that we will try to explain. Education for us means school, which is traditionally used in Gabon to change social class or to reach a more prestigious situation. It allows us to fight social inequalities. Thanks to school, we acquire knowledge and competencies that lead on to get a job. For several years, this model was very effective, and the elite that we find governing us today has benefited from this promotion via education. Up to the 1980s, the labor market had integrated all the people who were schooled. The new job seeker had lots of choices concerning his job.
After the second oil crisis in 1979, things started to change. The state’s financial difficulties led to a reconsideration of the number of people it employed. Private companies faced an incredible number of job seekers, who did not always correspond to their needs. The principal reason for this situation is in fact the colonial period. Since the introduction of modern work in Gabon, office jobs have carried prestige, and school has often been considered a way of getting such ideal jobs. Anthropology and sociology could explain better this phenomenon. The logical consequence of this trend was that the literary field was privileged over the scientific field (seen for a long time as a course for prospective technicians and manual workers).
For the last 30 years, education has remained an indispensable way of integrating the labor market. But this is not enough. Inequalities are going to appear between the different academic routes. Different choices of courses lead to different job opportunities. It is now the opposite: scientific courses guarantee more job opportunities. A second type of inequality results from differences among the schools, or among countries. A third inequality is in the nationality of the company of employment.