The test statistic result obtained in this present study is comparable to many other studies reiterating the fact that educational attainment and self-protection at work are strongly dependent on the subsector of goldminers (Armah et al., 2016b; Bansah, Yalley, Duamkor-Dupey, & Barnes-Sakyi-Addo, 2016a; Nieuwenhuijsen, Bruinvels, & Frings-Dresen, 2010; Pejtersen & Kristensen, 2009; Rugulies, 2012; Ross & Wu, 1995).
According to Bansah et al. (2016a), the small-scale mining sector in Ghana is largely operated by non-professionals. As a result, the environmental and safety issues can partly be attributed to lack of involvement by professional engineers who have technical expertise to design appropriate mining methodology and adequate safety measures, which is not the case in the large-scale mining sector.
This assertion supports the finding that workers decision to protect themselves are influenced by the subsector in which they work. This implies that the act and the decision of a goldminer to protect him or herself at work is more of a subsector deficiency rather than a personal conviction.
LSM is well organised with well-equipped departments or institutions which develop, enforce and monitor environmental, health, safety and economic policies to ensure the wellbeing of it workers whereas the informal nature of ASM exposes the sector workers to unregulated activities and conditions which poses greater harm to its workers.
Also, the result of the test statistic revealed that miners in LSM were more educated than ASM workers. This can be attributed to the fact that qualified personnel and technocrats including expatriates are used for LSM operations, due to the formal and highly efficient nature of the LSM, to ensure maximum productivity and minimum negative impacts on humans and the environment. ASM on the other hand, due to it unregulated nature, predominantly uses unskilled workforce which continuously threaten the safety and wellbeing of it workers and the environment. This claim is supported by (Bansah, et al., 2016a) who states that safety remains a major issue in small-scale mining due to the predominant use of unskilled workforce.
The disaggregation of the gap in the working conditions between LSM and ASM goldminers into a part that is due to group differences in the levels of explanatory variables and a part that is due to differential magnitudes of the regression coefficients, generally revealed that the disparity was largely due to differential magnitudes of regression coefficients (unexplained component) rather than the levels of explanatory variables (explained component).
On the whole, this indicated that the mean gap in the working conditions between LSM and ASM goldminers could be attributed to discrimination, but it might also emanate from the influence of unobserved variables. Subsector differences occurred in the important factors that contributed to discrimination in working conditions of goldminers.
In this perspective, age, education, years of experience and number of years lived in the community were significant for LSM goldminers while monthly income and experiencing health problems at work were more significant for ASM goldminers. Regardless of the decomposition technique used, less than a third of the gap was explained by the differences in the productive characteristics of LSM and ASM goldminers.
Gender accounted for bulk of the gap, which supported the assertion made by Armah et al. (2016b) that gold mining in the Tarkwa area is male-dominated hence women being discriminated against, especially in ASM. Additionally, Armah et al.; Botha and Cronjé (2015); Rufai, Anderson, and Sanda (2014); and Vincent, (2013) also affirm that although existence of prejudice and gender stereotypes is difficult to document in this type of study, there are indications that, in some workplaces, such as traditionally male-dominated sectors or sectors such as the mining sector, discriminatory practices towards women exist.
This claim, in this study, was not enough grounds to attribute the disparity in the working conditions of LSM and ASM goldminers to, but rather due to subsector discrimination and unobserved subsector heterogeneities.
The subsector-based inequality in environment, health, safety and economic working conditions of goldminers identified in this study might have occurred as a result of selective and weak enforcement of regulations. According to Bansah et al. (2016b) regulations are not enforced to the latter in ASM and also law enforcement in ASM mining in Ghana is poor and often unevenly applied hence weakening the desire to strive for good working conditions in ASM.
Calys-Tagoe et al. (2015) and Smith et al. (2016) also stresses that operations of LSM is highly organised and regulated largely due to governmental regulation of LSM companies and institutionally enforced compliance mechanisms and company policies and procedures. It is further expected that mining companies mining without any form of monitoring would increase the risk of injuries as workers would work under dangerous, labour intensive, disorganized and insecure conditions. This discriminatory practice weakens the overall status of ASM at the expense of the LSM, hence a gap between the two subsectors.
Additionally, there is a clear lack of compliance mechanisms as well as established operating systems in ASM. Smith et al. (2016) attributes this claim to the fact that ASM activities often takes place in rural communities and frequently operate illegally, aligning with local customs and land tenure traditions but operating outside the bounds of Ghana’s legal framework.
Also, LSM in Ghana is modernized with the latest mining technology and heavy equipment (Garvin et al., 2008), therefore, reducing the dangers of excessive manual work. This claim supports the assertion made by Elgstrand and Vingård (2013) that the main tools for developing the mining industry are mechanisation, computerization and work automation. ASM on the other hand, by it definition, is restricted on the use of heavy equipment and technology.
It is further characterised by lack of long term planning, lack of capital hence relying heavily on rudimentary techniques which result in poor working conditions of its workers (Arthur et al., 2015; Akabzaa & Darimani, 2001; Calys-Tagoe et al., 2015; Elgstrand & Vingård; Lynas, 2014; Ofosu-Mensah, 2011; Sánchez-Vázquez et al., 2016; Smith et al., 2016; Veiga, 1997).
According to Fletcher, Sindelar, and Yamaguchi (2011), there is a cumulative negative effect of performing a physically demanding or environmentally hazardous job on worker’s health. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes fair employment and decent work as a cornerstone of health, and advocates for fair occupational health and safety standards (WHO, 2009).
Subsector differences in exposure to risk factors as well as varying social situations produce subsector specific patterns of occupational health problems (Armah et al., 2016a). Individuals who work in jobs with the worst conditions experience drops in their health (Fletcher et al., 2011).
Job characteristics are more harmful to the health of older workers and females than to younger workers and men, and the adverse health effects increase with the length of exposure to job conditions (Fletcher et al.). Specifically, education, age, length of residency and experience are known to influence the type of work environment within which people are likely to work (Armah et al.).
For example, according to Armah et al. educational attainment influences the level at which gold miner will enter the job, the access to work-related resources, and the working conditions. Armah et al. further asserts that people with more education are more likely to live and work in safe and health-promoting environments.
Several studies (Almeida, 2005; Armah et al., 2016a; Cubbin, LeClere, & Smith, 2000; Fletcher et al., 2011; Gabel et al., 2002; Grzywacz, Almeida, Neupert, & Ettner, 2004; Kahya, 2007) have emphasized that, workers with less formal education and training are more likely to hold lower-paying jobs with more occupational hazards, including environmental and chemical exposures (e.g. mercury) and poor working conditions (e.g. shift work with few breaks, potentially harmful tools) that put them at higher risk of injury and fatality. Additionally, less educated workers are also likely to experience more psychosocial stress at work and have jobs that make high demands and offer few opportunities for control and skill utilization.
However, psychosocial aspects of work, including perceived balance between a worker’s efforts and rewards, perceived justice and discrimination in the workplace, and social support among co-workers, have both short- and longer- term impacts on health (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), 2009).
Also, less-educated workers in lower wage jobs are less likely to have health-related benefits including paid sick and personal leave, workplace wellness programs, and retirement benefits, in addition to employer- sponsored health insurance. Dissimilarly, more experienced workers are likely to have better working conditions and experience is a function of age (Armah et al., 2016b).
It was evident in the study that even within each subsector there were disparities among subsections or departments. In LSM, workers of subcontractors reported bad experiences of their working conditions. For example average monthly income of subcontractors was about 1000 cedis while that of permanent workers was 2000 cedis which is double the salary of subcontractors.
Most workers of subcontractors made claims about poor economic and psychosocial aspects of their work which is in contrast to what permanent LSM workers claimed. Non gold buyers (crushers and underground workers) in ASM averagely earned an amount of 1200 cedis per month while gold buyers in the subsector made an average monthly income of 3400 cedis, a figure that is significantly higher than the earnings of an average permanent worker in LSM.