Ghana Country Overview


Ghana is a presidential republic in West Africa. Following the most recent election, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo became president on January 7, 2017 after defeating the incumbent candidate, then-president John Dramani Mahama in what was judged to be a peaceful election.[1] The country’s political atmosphere has been relatively stable and peaceful since the early 1990s, when the new constitution re-established a multi-party political system.


Ghana is classified by the World Bank as a lower middle-income economy.[2] Ghana’s GDP was USD 37.54 billion in 2015.[3] The GDP is expected to reach a growth rate of approximately 7.5 percent by 2018.[4] The country’s main primary commodity exports include gold, cocoa and oil. Cocoa has been central to the Ghanaian economy. The U.S. Department of State has noted the strength of its good governance, political stability, and political reforms.[5] Of the labor force of approximately 11.99 million in 2016, an estimated 19.5 percent work in agriculture, 24 percent work in industry and 56.4 percent work in the service industry.[6]

The Ghanaian economy is heavily dependent on its primary commodity exports, thus making it sensitive to fluctuations in commodity market prices. To combat this vulnerability and diversify its export base, the government of Ghana is actively promoting the export of additional non-traditional products including cocoa butter and oil, wood-products, apparel, and fresh vegetables, among others. Ghana is eligible for trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and is a Feed the Future, Power Africa, Trade Africa, and Partnership for Growth country.[7]

Social/Human Development

The vast majority of the nearly 27 million people currently living in Ghana identify with eight ethnic groups: Akan (47.5 percent), Mole-Dagbon (16.6 percent), Ewe (13.9 percent), Ga-Dangme (7.4 percent), Gurma (5.7 percent), Guan (3.7 percent), Grusi (2.5 percent), and Mande (1.1 percent). The remaining 1.4 percent identify as ‘other.’[8] Since independence in the 1950s, Ghana has been a destination for regional migrants, although emigration has peaked periodically during economic slowdowns. The country has many internal migrants, primarily traveling from rural to urban regions. A 2013 estimate indicates that approximately 24.2 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.[9] Ghana’s Human Development Index score for 2015 was 0.579, ranking the country 139 out of 188 countries.[10]

U.S. Department of State TIP Report Summary (2019)

U.S. Department of State TIP Ranking: Tier 2

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report, trafficking risk may be found among Ghanaian children in export supply chains including fishing, artisanal gold mining, quarrying, herding, and agriculture. Women and girls are vulnerable to sex trafficking associated with the oil sector.

Migrant and Other Vulnerable Populations

Ghana has negative net migration,[11] and only 1.4 percent of the country’s population are migrants.[12] The largest source countries for migrants are Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Benin. [13] An estimated 17,406 refugees out of a total of 19,265 persons of concern lived in Ghana in 2015.[14] The refugee population is primarily from Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Liberia, Sudan, and Central African Republic, with many having lived in the country for at least five years.[15]
The most popular destination for Ghanaians is Nigeria, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Togo, Italy, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Germany, Canada, and Mali.[16]



Exports and Trade

Ghana’s top exports in 2016 were gold, cocoa, mineral fuels, wood, and fruits and nuts.[17]
The top importers of all goods from Ghana are Switzerland, India, China, the Netherlands and the United States of America.[18]

Trafficking in Persons Risk Factors Analysis


Legal/Policy Risk Factors

Freedom of Association

The law provides workers, with the exception of military, police, Ghanaian Prison System and security and intelligence personnel, with the rights to form and organize unions. However, only those unions that have the membership of at least half of the workforce can receive a collective bargaining certificate, which is required for a union to engage in collective bargaining with management. Additionally, workers who perform services that are deemed to be ‘essential’ by the Ghanaian government may not participate in strikes. The Ghanaian government’s definition of essential services includes services that are outside of the ILO’s definition of essential services, such as utility workers and medical center employees. The U.S. Department of State reports that the Ghanaian government generally respects eligible workers’ rights to freedom of association.[19] In 2016, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) gave Ghana a rating of 2, on its 1 – 5+ scale, with lower scores meaning the country offers better protections of workers’ rights.[20]

Working Conditions

The law sets a daily minimum wage of 8.8 cedis (USD 2)[21] and a maximum workweek of 40 hours. The law also stipulates that workers must receive at least 48 hours of consecutive rest every seven days. Workers are also entitled to at least 15 days of paid annual leave. However, the minimum wage, working hours and paid leave policies do not apply to domestic workers or those who work in the informal sector, which accounted for approximately 88 percent of the Ghanaian workforce in 2014. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State reports that the Ghanaian government has been ineffective in enforcing its minimum wage, hours and other health and safety legislation.[22]


Although the law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on gender, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, political opinion, social or economic status, or disability, it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on age, language, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State reports that the government does not effectively enforce its anti-discrimination legislation.[23]

Forced Labor

The law prohibits forced labor, but the U.S. Department of State reports that resources, inspections, remediation and penalties are inadequate.[24]

Child Labor

The minimum age for general employment in Ghana is 15 years old. Children under 18 are prohibited from performing hazardous labor. However, the U.S. Department of State reports that the Ghanaian government’s enforcement of its child labor laws has been both ineffective and inconsistent. Additionally, while the Ghanaian constitution provides all children with a free, compulsory basic education from kindergarten to junior high school, not all children complete their education. Children in the norther regions of the country, especially girls, are less likely to attend school, leading to an education disparity.[25]

Civil Society Organizations

The U.S. Department of State reports that human rights groups “generally operated without government restriction” and that “government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.”[26]

Immigration Policies Limiting the Employment Options or Movement of Migrants

Foreigners and refugees can apply for work permits for employment in the formal sector, although the U.S. Department of State reports that most non-Ghanaians are employed in the informal sector.[27]

Refugees in Ghana have the right of freedom of movement, the right to work, and opportunities for naturalization.[28]

Ratification of ILO Conventions Related to Human Trafficking or Rights of Workers and Migrants


There are several free trade zones in Ghana, which were established after the Free Zones Act was passed in 1995. Within these zones “free zone developers and enterprises shall be free to negotiate and establish contracts of employment with employees that include wage scales, minimum working hours, employee suspension and dismissal, settlement of disputes arising between employers and employees, and other such terms of employment as shall be consistent with I.L.O. Conventions on workers’ rights and conditions of service.” Additionally, companies within free trade zones are not required to pay corporate taxes for the first 10 years after they are established. For any subsequent years, the zones are subject to a corporate tax of up to eight percent.[30]


In 2015, remittances accounted for only .2 percent of Ghana’s GDP.[31] In 2015, approximately 800,000 Ghanaians emigrated from the country, primarily to Nigeria, the U.S. and the U.K.[32] The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency reports that the increase of emigration to the U.S. and U.K. since the 1990s has “drained the country of its health care and education professionals.”[33]

Political Risk Factors


Ghana scores a 71.2 in the 2016 Fragile States Index, placing it in the “Warning” Category.[34] The recent presidential elections were judged to be free and fair and there was a peaceful transition of power.[35]


The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report ranked Ghana at 95 out of 140 and 98 out of 144 for business costs of violence and crime and organized crime respectively.[36] The U.S. Department of State describes a level of crime and violence that is comparable to regional neighbors and specifically points to Ghana’s emergence as “a significant trans-shipment point for illegal drugs, particularly cocaine from South America and heroin from Afghanistan.”[37]


In 2015, there were approximately 19,000 “persons of concern,” fewer than other nearby countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, which had over one million persons of concern.[38] Throughout Ghana, people who are disabled, LGBTI, or HIV-positive reportedly face higher levels of discrimination. Police brutality is reportedly an issue.[39]


The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index scores Ghana as a 43 out of 100, where a 0 signals “Highly Corrupt” and 100 signals “Very Clean.” Ghana is ranked 70 out of 176 on that index.[40] According to the U.S. Department of State, corruption is a risk in all branches of the government, including the judiciary, the police force and the executive offices. The World Bank scores Ghana as a 53 out of 100 on its Control of Corruption ratings, with a 100 being a perfect score.[41]

Socio-Economic Risk Factors


The Mo Ibrahim Foundation ranks Ghana as number 11 out of the 54 countries in Africa in terms of human development, with a score of 64.2 out of 100.[42] According to the UN Human Development Index, Ghana is scored in the medium human development category, with a rank of 139 out of 188 countries worldwide and a score of .579. Neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso, Togo, and Benin score lower on the index.[43]


According to the UN, approximately 32.4 percent of Ghanaians live in multidimensional poverty, with another 20.5 percent living near multidimensional poverty.[44]

Although poverty levels have been decreasing, economic growth within the country is uneven, with a large degree of inequality. Increasing prosperity is focused in the more metropolitan areas of the country, while the north remains underdeveloped. When adjusted for inequality, the Human Development Index score falls to 0.391, a loss of over 32 percent. This demonstrates a higher degree of inequality within the country.[45]


The United Nations Human Development Programs 2016 Gender Inequality Index rating for Ghana is .547, slightly better than the average of .572 for all of Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the average gender inequality rating for the countries that the UN has deemed to be “medium development countries,” including Ghana, is .491, meaning that the level of gender inequality in Ghana is higher than that of other countries of similar development levels. The UN reports that approximately 52 percent of women have a secondary education level, compared to approximately 68.5 percent of men. The rate of female participation in the labor market is 75.5 percent, compared to 78.5 percent for men. In 2015, women held less than 11 percent of the seats in parliament.[46]

Gender-based discrimination is prohibited by law and although women in Accra and other urban areas reportedly face little overt discrimination in the workplace, there is still societal discrimination against women trying to enter less mainstream occupations.[47] Additionally, although women have legal rights to own land, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that in some regions in the north, the percentage of female landowners is as low as two percent.[48]


The majority of land in Ghana (over 75 percent) is governed by customary law, which includes practices shown to discriminate against female inheritance of land.[49] This also reportedly enables “corrupt local leaders to benefit from rising land values at the expense of their community members.”[50]

Land grabs in Ghana have occurred, primarily for corporate agricultural production.[51]


Ghana is susceptible to both floods and droughts, both of which can cause disturbances in citizens’ work and home lives. The country is currently experiencing a drought that is causing disruptions to the agricultural practices in the north.[52]

Documented Trafficking and Trafficking Risk in Key Commodity Supply Chains



Cocoa accounts for approximately 30 percent of the country’s total export earnings.[53] Cocoa is predominantly grown as a small-holder crop in Ghana with over 700,000 farmers each producing on an average of 2-3 hectares.[54]


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, cocoa is produced with child labor in Ghana.[55] A 2015 report published by Tulane University compared the 2008 – 2009 cocoa harvest cycle to the 2013 – 2014 harvest cycle in terms of active child labor in both Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. The report found that children in hazardous work in cocoa production Ghana decreased by six percent between the two harvest cycles, lowering from 0.93 million children in 2008 – 2009 to 0.88 million children in 2013 – 2014, in the same period that cocoa production increased about 30 percent.[56] Nearly 96 percent of children ages 5-17 who worked in cocoa production in Ghana in 2013-2014 also attended school.[57] Carrying heavy loads and using sharp tools were the most common hazards for children involved in cocoa production.[58]



Gold accounts for over 96 percent of mined minerals in Ghana, and the minerals sector is responsible for roughly 37 percent of the county’s GDP.[59] Over a third of production occurs in small-scale mining operations, and illegal mining remains a key issue in the country.[60] It is estimated that USD 2.3 billion worth of gold was mined illegally in 2016 alone, with most of the illegal gold reportedly exported to India and China.[61]


According to the U.S. Department of State, children are subjected to trafficking in artisanal gold mining.[62] Girls are reportedly trafficked to mining camps.[63] Hazardous child labor has been well documented, most notably by a 2015 report from Human Rights Watch.[64] According to the report, thousands of children are involved in hazardous gold mining in artisanal gold mines in Ghana. These children may work with their families or independently. They are involved in a range of tasks including excavation in shafts, carrying ore, crushing ore as well as washing ore with mercury. Children involved in gold mining – in Ghana and elsewhere – experience significant health consequences including bone and joint damage, respiratory disease and mercury poisoning. Children have also died in mine collapses.[65]

Oil and Gas


Oil and gas production in Ghana began in 2010, and is currently operated by private companies working in partnership with the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC). The country is only currently producing from one offshore field, but there are 16 additional allocated blocks that are in various levels of pre-production. Total production currently rests at approximately 100,000 barrels of oil a day,[66] and accounts for 1.7 percent of the country’s GDP.[67]


Oil and gas production – and the influx of workers and resources associated with it – may increase sex trafficking in some regions. According to the U.S. Department of State, “sex trafficking…is growing in the oil-producing Western Region.”[68]

Environmental risks have also been noted. For example, gas flaring has been used to boost oil production, while gas infrastructure was being built to harness the gas.[69] Gas flaring can contribute to air pollution and climate change.[70]

Seismic testing and other exploration related activities has drastically decreased the fish catch.[71]

Wage discrimination between local workers and expatriates is reportedly an issue.[72] There are anecdotal reports of high fees charged by recruitment agencies placing workers on some oil rigs.[73]



The Ghanaian fishing industry employs roughly ten percent of the population, and accounts for three percent of the country’s GDP. Marine fisheries account for 80 percent of the fish consumed in Ghana, and freshwater production has been ramping up in recent years.[74] Total production in 2013 was around 298,000 tons. Fish production in Ghana has been on the decline since 1999, with the peak export year coming in 2003 (valued USD 120 million). Fish farming has been on the rise, from 1,200 tons in 2005 to 38,500 tons in 2014. The high price of tilapia and a high level of federal support for fish farming programs have led to the increase in production.[75]


According to the U.S. Department of State, children are trafficked for work in the fishing sector.[76] The most well documented case study is that of the Lake Volta region in Ghana. The typical trafficking mechanism is a contractual agreement between the children’s parents and a recruiter, often for a multiple year period, with the parents given an advance payment or promised payment at the end of the contract. In many cases, both the parents and children lack awareness of the actual conditions, which are often abusive.[77]

Case Study: Trafficking Risk Tied to the Oil and Gas Sectors in Ghana

With oversight from project partner Solidarity Center, the African Labour Researcher’s Network (ALRN) carried out rapid appraisal field research in Ghana. The rapid appraisal research sought qualitative information on potential risks of human trafficking in a specific supply chains from a variety of expert informants including workers, government officials, organized labor representatives, employers and civil society groups. Expert informant information was used to triangulate information gathered during desk research. The Ghana case study is summarized below and has informed framing of issues throughout this report.

The oil and gas sector represents a source of employment with an estimated 3,000 related jobs in Ghana. According to experts interviewed, average pay rates are relatively high, leading jobs in the sector to be perceived as desirable, but it appears it may contribute to vulnerabilities of workers and local communities in several ways.

First, the booming sector and high number of migrant (both transnational and domestic) workers may contribute to sex trafficking. The U.S. Department of State 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report noted the presence of sex trafficking “in the oil-producing western region.” The scope of sex trafficking in these regions is unknown, but several experts interviewed for this case study, as well as a media scan, confirmed the phenomenon. Some local media reports have noted both Ghanaian victims and victims trafficked from China.

Trafficking has not been authoritatively documented directly among workers in the sector. However, there is a high-level of casualization of workers; it is common practice for workers, particularly workers in “lower-skilled” positions to be hired via a recruiter or other type of employment agent. Field researchers noted that these workers are often from poorer regions in neighboring countries or within Ghana and are unlikely to express any grievances. Workers may be motivated to seek employment through agents because, although jobs in the sector, are seen as generally desirable, the sector overall does not have high employment rates, leaving multiple potential workers for any opening. Further, field researchers found widespread reports that workers recruited via agents are required to pay registration fees, including increased fees to preferential placements. These fees are reportedly paid unofficially or “off-the-books,” potentially leaving workers in debt and unlikely to make any reports of fees paid. While these arrangements do not in themselves represent trafficking, they do flag a vulnerable population of workers, particularly when they are living in isolated and remote regions. Further, these casual employment positions secured through agents may never be legalized, meaning that workers do not receive benefits such as social security. Experts interviewed suggested that transnational migrants recruited through informal mechanisms may be particularly vulnerable. These arrangements were also noted in the construction industries that support the oil and gas sector.

The development of the sector has also displaced local populations, increasing their overall vulnerability. Most oil platforms are off-shore; it has been noted that these platforms are disruptive to local fishing activities. Local fishers are banned from operating near rigs, while, at the same time, the bright lights used on the platform draw fish, leading to lower catch and decreased livelihoods. The sector has also been associated with land acquisition. Case study research found that oil and gas companies typically seek clearance from local community leadership – predominantly chiefs. While the state is required to compensate local people for land acquisition, total amounts paid have reportedly been inadequate, particularly in cases where farmers were not compensated sufficiently for loss of productive land. Local residents are further impacted by environmental degradation such as water, air and light pollution.

Related Resources

Resources for Understanding Legal and Policy-Related Risk Factors
ABA Rule of Law Initiative Country Report: Ghana


[1] The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Ghana.

[2] The World Bank. World Bank Country and Lending Groups.

[3] The World Bank. Ghana.

[4] The World Bank. Ghana Overview.

[5] U.S. Department of State Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Investment Climate Statements for 2016: Ghana.

[6] The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Ghana.

[7] U.S. Department of State Bureau of African Affairs. U.S. Relations with Ghana Fact Sheet.

[8] The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Ghana.

[9] The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Ghana.

[10] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Reports: Ghana.

[11] The World Bank. Net Migration: Ghana.

[12] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. International Migration Stock 2015.

[13] International Organization for Migration. Global Migration Flows.

[14] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Population Statistics.

[15] United Nations. United Nations in Ghana.

[16] International Organization for Migration. Global Migration Flows.

[17] International Trade Centre. Trade Map.

[18] International Trade Centre. Trade Map.

[19] U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Ghana.

[20] International Trade Union Confederation. ITUC Global Rights Index: 2016.

[21] “Gov’t increases minimum wage by 10%.” Citi Business News. July 2017.

[22] U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Ghana.

[23] U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Ghana.

[24] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2016.

[25] U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Ghana.

[26] U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Ghana.

[27] U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Ghana.

[28] United Nations. United Nations in Ghana. Refugees.

[29] International Labor Organization. Ratifications for Ghana.

[30] Government of Ghana. Free Zone Act, 1995: Section 34.1.

[31] The World Bank. Migration and Remittances Data.

[32] International Organization for Migration. Global Migration Flows.

[33] The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Ghana.

[34] Fund for Peace. 2016 Fragile States Index.

[35] The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Ghana.

[36] The World Economic Forum. The Global Competitiveness Report 2015–2016.

[37] U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Ghana Crime and Safety Report. 2016.

[38] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Population Statistics.

[39] U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Ghana.

[40] Transparency International. Corruptions Perceptions Index 2016.

[41] The World Bank. Worldwide Governance Indicators.

[42] Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2016.

[43] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2016.

[44] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2016.

[45] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2016.

[46] United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Reports.

[47] U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Ghana.

[48] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Social Institutions and Gender Index: Ghana.

[49] Focus on Land in Africa. Women’s Evolving Land Rights in Ghana.

[50] Focus on Land in Africa. Customary Leaders and Conflicts of Interest over Land in Ghana.

[51] Caritas Ghana. Unmasking Land Grabbing in Ghana; Restoring Livelihoods; Paving Way for Sustainable Development Goals. August 2016.

[52] The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Ghana.

[53] USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Ghana Cocoa Report Annual. 2012.

[54] Asante-Poku A., Angelucci F. MAFAP, FAO. Analysis of incentives and disincentives for cocoa in Ghana. 2013.

[55] U.S. Department of Labor. List of Goods Produced with Forced Labor or Child Labor. 2016.

[56] Tulane University. 2013/14 Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas. July 15, 2015.

[57] Tulane University. 2013/14 Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas. July 15, 2015.

[58] Tulane University. 2013/14 Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas. July 15, 2015.

[59] Oxford Business Group. Ghana’s Gold Miners See Brighter Times Ahead. February 17, 2015.

[60] Fick, Maggie. “Ghana crackdown on illegal gold mining inflames tensions with Beijing.” Financial Times. April 30, 2017.

[61] Burrows, Edward and Lucia Bird. “Ghana: Gold, Guns and China – Ghana’s Fight to End Galamsey.” May 30, 2017.

[62] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2016.

[63] Free the Slaves. “New FTS Research Explores Child Slavery in Ghana Gold Mining.” 2013.

[64] Human Rights Watch. Precious Metal. June 10, 2015.

[65] Human Rights Watch. Precious Metal. June 10, 2015.

[66] Ghana Oil and Gas.

[67] World Bank. Data.

[68] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2016.

[69] Bloomberg. “Ghana Won’t Block Tullow Gas Flaring to Boost Oil Production.” June 2014.

[70] Assessing the Impact of Oil and Gas Exploration in Ghana.

[71] Anderson, Mark, Billie Adwoa McTernan, and Sekondi-Takoradi. “Does Ghana’s oil boom spell an end for its fishing industry?” The Guardian. August 2014.

[72] Pulitzer Center. “Labor Disputes, Local Concerns Prevent Ghanaian Oil from Helping Ghanaians.” Pulitzer Center. February 2017.

Business News. “Ghanaian oil workers 400 percent worst off.” November 2014.

[73] Joy Online. “Another strike at sea, on Jack Ryan oil rig.” August 2014.

[74] Ghana Investment Promotion Committee. Investing in Ghana’s Fishing Industry.

[75] United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Ghana Fishing Profile.

[76] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2016.

[77] International Justice Mission. Child Trafficking into Forced Labor on Lake Volta, Ghana.