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Where Have All the Young Men Gone? Evidences and Explanations of Changing Age–Sex Ratios in Kampala

  • Sandra Wallman and Valdo Pons


In the second half of the twentieth century the population of Kampala grew substantially and the long-remarked surplus of men over women began to level out. These general trends are equally evident in other African cities, but important differences show up when the balance of age cohorts within the male and female populations is considered. Thus in Kampala, along with population growth and a declining overall sex ratio, censuses show a growing excess of girls/young women over boys/young men. The article reviews these population data and two levels of (unenumerated) explanation for them. The first is extrapolated from Uganda's recent history; the second from observation and narrative in one densely populated parish. The argument is that changes in the age–sex ratio follow from change in the map of work options in Kampala. The disappearance of young males stems from the collapse of the formal economy, once the employer of men, and the developments in the informal economy which favour young women. This conclusion is supported by census data from Nairobi, where the formal employment structure remains relatively buoyant, and the comparable age–sex ratios are less extreme. The health policy relevance of the Kampala trend is underlined by official calculations of increasing HIV/AIDS incidence among teenage women. As long as sex work remains dominant among their options in the informal economy, one effect of their economic advantage is extra vulnerability to fatal disease.

Au cours de la seconde moitié du XXème siécle, la population de Kampala s'ést considérablement accrue et l'excédent d'hommes par rapport aux femmes, depuis longtemps remarqué, a commencé à se résorber. On observe ces mêmes tendances générales dans d'autres villes africaines, mais des différences importantes apparaissent lorsque l'on considère l'équilibre des cohortes d'âges au sein des populations masculines et féminines. Ainsi à Kampala, outre une croissance démographique et un rapport général hommes-femmes en baisse, les recensements officiels montrent un excédent croissant de filles/jeunes femmes par rapport aux garçons/jeunes hommes. L'article examine ces données démographiques et deux niveaux (non énumérés) d'explication de ces données. Le premier est extrapolé à partir de l'histoire récente de l'Ouganda; le second à partir d'observations st des récits recueillis dans une commune très peuplée. L'argument est que les variations du rapport âge-sexe découlent d'une variation du paysage des options de travail à Kampala. La disparition des hommes jeunes provient de l'effondrement de l'économie officielle, autrefois génératrice d'emplois masculins, et de l'évolution de l'économie non officielle qui favorise les femmes jeunes. Cette conclusion est corroborée par les données de recensement de Nairobi, où la structure de l'emploi officiel demeure relativement soutenue et les rapports âge-sexe comparables sont moins extrêmes. La pertinence de la politique de santé de la tendance de Kampala est soulignée par des chiffres officiels indiquant une augmentation des cas de VIH/SIDA chez les adolescentes. Tant que le travail du sexe restera une option dominante de ces adolescentes au sein de l'économie non officielle, une conséquence de leur avantage économique sera une plus grande vulnérabilité aux maladies mortelles.



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Where Have All the Young Men Gone? Evidences and Explanations of Changing Age–Sex Ratios in Kampala

  • Sandra Wallman and Valdo Pons


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