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Pontara, Nicola (2010) A critical examination of theoretical and methodological approaches to low-income country labour markets : A case study of Mauritania. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This dissertation evaluates the dominant theoretical and methodological approaches to the conceptualisation of the labour market in low-income countries, with particular attention paid to rural areas and to Africa. Using the example of Mauritania, it shows that these are inadequate. The work conducted contends that neo-classical paradigms are ill-equipped to capture the salient characteristics of rural 'change' and labour markets in Africa; and argues that a new theoretical and methodological approach towards employment should be at the core of economic and social policies. This thesis applies an analytical framework that draws from classical political economy. In this approach, employment is more important in the reduction of poverty than usually recognised. In particular, it is maintained that policies geared at generating sustainable and productive employment should be more firmly at the core of policy making in Mauritania. Methodological lessons are also presented in this dissertation. It is argued in particular that labour market analyses that rely on tools such as living standard measurement surveys systematically underestimate the true extent of labour market participation in rural Africa. By contrast, micro-surveys that utilise a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods are able to capture the complexity of labour markets and measure their vibrancy and significance for poverty reduction, notably in contexts characterised by heterogeneity and differentiation rather than homogeneity and equality. These points are discussed in detail when comparing the results of the 2004 national household survey (EPCV) with those of a micro-survey which focusing on selected village labour markets (RLMS). This work concludes by summarising the advantages of using a political economy framework in the analysis of rural 'change' through the lens of the labour market; the main methodological lessons for designing sound labour market research tools; and policy implications for the generation of decent and sustainable employment opportunities in (rural) Mauritania.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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