By Percis Ofori
The “Second National Dialogue (Roundtable discussion) on Youth Employment Challenges in Ghana: what do politicians have to say?” was the second of two dialogues organized by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and sponsored by INCLUDE Platform.
Welcoming the delegates, ACET’s Chief Operations Officer, Mr. Daniel Nti said that “Ideas and contributions from political parties and invited stakeholders would enhance the global solution to youth employment challenges in Ghana.”
Youth unemployment is the greatest challenge to Ghana’s development, said ACET Chief Economist Dr. Yaw Ansu in his opening remarks. “More than half of the university graduates are jobless,” Dr. Ansu said.
He described the youth as Ghana’s biggest asset. “The youth are our goldmine to development when utilized properly. But If not dealt with properly, the challenge of youth employment could blow up in our face,”Dr Ansu said.
In response, Ms. Freda Yawson, ACET’s Senior Programmes Manager said that ACET and the INCLUDE Platform were interested in addressing the problem of youth unemployment.
In a summary of proceedings from the first workshop held on 13 July, Dr. William Baah-Boateng, Senior Research Fellow at ACET, said: “The problem of youth unemployment cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach.” He said that tailor-made solutions should be drafted to look at youth unemployment in the formal and informal sectors.
The youth unemployment challenge was bigger for females than their male counterparts and there was a high rate of joblessness and unemployment in urban areas as compared to rural areas, Dr. Baah-Boateng said, adding that this could partly be explained by the ready availability of backyard or subsistence farming in rural areas. Statistics of unemployment are lower among the less educated and higher among the well-educated because the informal sector is able to absorb more of the less educated people. There is therefore the need expand the formal sector to absorb more of the well-educated, Dr. Baah-Boateng said.
He highlighted the lack of support for young people going into entrepreneurship, the development of youth competencies during internship training, and the unattractiveness of the agricultural sector as major concerns raised during the first dialogue.
Poor quality of instructors and instructions in schools, weak curriculum linkages between academia and the world of work, a weak educational foundation at the basic level and weak internship systems were identified as skills training challenges facing youth employment. Strong basic education, regular training for instructors at all levels and improvement in the teaching methodology were some of the solutions proffered to this challenge.
Under growth strategy and employment response, challenges identified included rapid population growth and a youthful population against limited job availability, and high growth in low labour absorption areas such as the extractive industries. Promotion of sector linkages between agriculture and industry, provision of basic infrastructure, joint ventureship and leveraging the returns from the extractive industry for infrastructure were some solutions offered.
The first workshop further identified unfriendly government agricultural policies for young people, delayed income, reduced land for agriculture in favour of housing and mining, and the partisan nature of the youth in agriculture policies and programme, which is restricted to a few people, as the main challenges facing the issue of agriculture and youth employment. Recommendations put forward included modernizing agriculture and treating it as a business, creating ready markets for farm produce and developing rural areas to curb rural-urban migration.
Commenting on the work of the first dialogue, ACET’s Director of Research, Professor Joe Amoako-Tuffour, was of the view that social security was in danger if the majority of the youth was unemployed. “There’s a huge carrying population and the dependency ratio is unbearable”, said Prof. Amoako-Tuffour.
The climax of yesterday’s second dialogue was the discussion by political parties on ways to address the unemployment situation under three themes – skills training and dynamics of youth employment, agriculture and youth employment, and growth strategy and employment response.
Under agriculture and youth employment, there were discussions about the need to mechanize agriculture and treat it as a business. The parties identified tomatoes, soya beans, almonds, ginger and mangoes as potential crops they could invest in to generate more jobs for the youth. Cottage industries were identified as solutions to reduce market losses.
Industrial attachments, easy access to funds by artisans, and tax rebates and holidays were some of the issues raised under skills training and dynamics of youth employment. Free schooling and the restructuring of the educational curriculum were also suggested, along with improved vocational and technical skills training to attract more youth. Education should be classified into formal, semi-formal and informal to develop the necessary training for all sectors, one participant proposed.
During feedback by stakeholders, one participant expressed disappointment that the question had not been discussed why government policies and projects on youth unemployment fail. Participants advocated the depoliticisation of youth and skills programmes and the establishment of an inter-party forum to look at youth unemployment in the country. Improvement of power and energy issues, encouraging graduates to take charge of skills development policies, establishment of practical linkages between education and industry, and the development of an all-hands approach were proposed as solutions to youth unemployment.
The highly participatory dialogue brought together political party representatives from the NPP, CPP, PNC, PPP, IPP, NDP, Eagle Party, RPD, URP, IPP and the DFP. The ruling NDC party was however absent from the event.
The African Center for Economic Transformation is an economic policy institute supporting Africa’s long-term growth through transformation. ACET’s mission is to promote policy and institutional reforms for sustained and economic growth throughout Africa, so that African countries can drive their own growth and transformation agendas.
INCLUDE is a knowledge platform that offers insight into policy matters and research issues related to inclusive development.