Exploring decency of work among solid waste workers in Accra, Ghana

  • Owusu Boampong University of Cape Coast
  • Benjamin Y. Tachie University of Cape Coast
  • Musah Dankwah University of Cape Coast
  • Akua O. Britwum University of Cape Coast
Keywords: waste workers, decent work, informal waste workers, Accra, solid waste


The literature on waste work often focuses on
occupational health and safety issues with little
attention paid to other dimensions of work such
as nature of employment, remuneration, social
security, workers’ rights and social dialogue. This
paper explores the decency of work in the waste
sector in Accra, using the ILO’s decent work
agenda. A qualitative design was employed in
which 22 participants were purposely selected
for in-depth interviews. They included 2 waste
management officials of Accra Metropolitan
Assembly, 4 waste collection contractors, 9 leaders
of informal waste worker groups, 2 trade union
leaders and 5 waste workers. Three focus group
discussions were held with female waste workers.

We observed deficits on many fronts of the
decent work agenda in the solid waste
sector. Employment forms were casual
in nature and insecure. Organisational
consciousness to drive efforts at protecting
workplace rights appeared weak among
formal waste workers but remained high
for informal waste workers. While private
waste workers faced hostilities from their
employers to unionise, the informal waste
workers were self-organising to address
work-related challenges. Waste workers’
access to social protection was almost
non-existent. The general decent work
deficit in the sector calls for social partners,
particularly the trades unions, to extend
coverage to private and public waste
pickers to help address the various facets
of the decent work deficits facing them.