Graduate unemployment, artisanal and small-scale mining, and rural transformation in Ghana: What does the ‘educated’ youth involvement offer?


*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


In the face of rising graduate unemployment, an increasing number of graduates in Ghana has joined the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector. Hitherto, graduates were reluctant to take up jobs in ASM let alone move into rural areas to engage in ASM. In light of these ongoing employment dynamics, we investigate the reasons why educated youth in Ghana join the ASM sector by using digital interviewing methods (2 phone and 17 WhatsApp instant messenger interviews). Further, we examine how university graduates' involvement in ASM transforms the rural communities they work in and how they are in turn shaped by the communities. These rural transformations have important policy considerations for this distinct youth group due to their ‘non-typical’ association as ASM workers and how formalisation within the sector can increase the gains they actualise from the sector as a source of employment. We find that most university graduates join ASM because of four reasons: 1) ASM serves as a primary livelihood source because of lack of alternatives, 2) lack of employment opportunities (graduate positions) in the cities, 3) for income diversification, and 4) opportunity to start a business in a profitable sector/higher remuneration in ASM compared to other employment sectors. Among other things, graduates' involvement in ASM transforms rural communities in the following ways: 1) reconfiguring the spatial mobilities of graduate employment avenues towards rural areas, 2) promoting locally-anchored community development, 3) stimulating local economy through linkages to other sectors/industries, and 4) influencing rural labour dynamics in ASM communities. Given these dynamics of rural transformation, educated youth involvement in ASM questions the singular conceptualisation of ASM as ‘a poverty-driven activity’ and helps scholars to reconceptualise and recontextualise ASM considering the view of ASM as an ‘entrepreneurial activity', and ‘a community activity' for traditional authorities to generate funds for local development. The policy implications of our findings on the formalisation of ASM and the promotion of youth employment in the ASM sector in Ghana and potentially, elsewhere in Africa are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-139
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date7 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank all the interviewees for participating in the research. The authors would also like to thank the editor and the three anonymous reviewers for providing constructive comments on the previous drafts.


  • Graduate unemployment
  • Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
  • Rural transformation
  • Educated youth
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Africa
  • Artisanal and Small-scale mining (ASM)


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