Multilingual markets: investigating language skills for informal employment in Malawi

This project will investigate language use in informal employment, where the majority of workers in Sub-Saharan Africa obtain their livelihood.
Project status
Ongoing
Departments
International

Project

In multilingual countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) there is a risk of linguistic mismatch hindering engagement with educational and economic systems. This study will investigate language use in informal employment, where the majority of workers in SSA obtain their livelihood. The aim is to identify which languages and language combinations are most effective for facilitating informal employment, in order to inform policies on language-skills formation in education. For this the team will conduct a mixed-methods study of market traders in Malawi, deploying in-depth ethnographic observation in conjunction with a survey of background, economic activity and language use. This is important as language policies emphasising English as a common language are widely implemented in SSA based on the perception that English is most valuable for employment opportunities. Yet, these perceptions are not underlined by substantial evidence and do not consider the multilingual reality of countries or their labour markets.

Principal Investigator: Dr Colin Reilly, University of Stirling

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