A strong policy direction towards agriculture and manufacturing sectors, support for the private sector, skills development, and information on labour market statistics were some key recommendations made by stakeholders at a policy dialogue on job creation and inclusive growth held in Accra on February 28. Others included revising the educational curriculum and linking it to industry, functional labour market information system, government support for youth entrepreneurship, and formalizing activities of the informal sector.
The event, jointly organised by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and the INCLUDE Platform, was the third in a series of policy dialogues to discuss policy initiatives for job creation and youth employment, said Dr. Edward Brown, ACET’s Director of Policy Advisory Services, in his welcome address.
In his opening remarks, the Netherlands Ambassador, H.E. Ron Strikker, said that Ghana has experienced strong growth over the past two years, with a vision to move beyond aid. The country has been able to decrease its physical deficit and set up a domestic resource mobilization programme to increase revenue mobilization. “The Ghana Revenue Authority was able to meet its revenue mobilization for 2017 and put in place measures to meet its target for 2018”, Ambassador Strikker noted. He said that the Kingdom of the Netherlands in partnership with Ghana has come up with the Ghana Growth Programme, which focuses on economic empowerment. The Netherlands also provides support in the agribusiness sector and is involved in vegetable, cocoa and oil palm production in Ghana. The Netherlands is also involved in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme. To help address the challenge of youth unemployment, the Kingdom of The Netherlands has put in place programmes to promote the development of entrepreneurial skills among the youth. “Africa needs 18 million jobs every year to address the issue of unemployment,” the Dutch Ambassador added.
Youth unemployment and joblessness remain a major socio-economic and political problem in Ghana and many other African countries said Prof. William Baah-Boateng, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Ghana, in a presentation informing the discussions. Although Ghana has recorded impressive economic growth, it has not translated into the creation of sufficient jobs for the rapidly expanding labour force, and youth unemployment is higher among the educated than among the less educated, Professor Baah-Boateng said. Among those who are educated, “Higher unemployment rates are reported among educated young people who graduated in social science, agriculture and humanities as compared to those with skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), such as engineering”, he continued.
According to Baah-Boateng, the government has initiated direct job creation interventions to address youth unemployment challenges. These include the Skills Training and Employment Placement, programme, initiated from 2002-2004, in response to the revelation of the existence of about one million unemployed people. There is also the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan, launched in 2014 to give young Ghanaians an opportunity to hone their talents and entrepreneurial skills and start up new businesses to employ more youth. The present government has put in place new programmes such as One District, One Factory, an industrialization drive to create productive employment for the youth, Planting for Food and Jobs, which looks at job creation in agriculture sector, and One village, One Dam to ensure year-round agriculture activity and sustainable job creation in agriculture, particularly in the Northern part of the country.
Discussions on the floor underscored the importance of investing in employment data to address the unemployment challenge, the need to link academia to industry, gender education and investment in the Technical Vocational Education Training initiative.
Sharing his thoughts on the challenge of youth unemployment, Dr. K.Y. Amoako, President of ACET, said ACET will set up an employment platform which will meet regularly to discuss and analyse issues of youth employment, the future of work, gender dimensions of population growth and the relevance of tertiary institutions. Research findings will feed into the policy-making machinery of government.
There was a panel discussion on “job creation for the unemployed youth in Ghana”. Panellists included Mr. Ernest Berko, Assistant Director of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Dr. Kwabena Otoo, Director General of the Ghana Labour College of Trade Union Congress, Dr. Julius Gatune, Senior Researcher and Policy Advisor, ACET, and Mr. Kingsley Laar, Researcher, Ghana Employers Association.
Dr. Julius Gatune, made a strong case for coming up with interesting business models in agriculture to attract the youth. “We need to look at agriculture as a business along the entire value chain,” he said.
For his part, Dr. Kwabena Otoo urged government to move from programmes to policies that support the private sector and incentivize them to venture into sectors that have high employment generation potentials. “Government must change its incentive policy to attract the private sector to invest in agriculture and employ more youth,” he said.
Panellists concluded that there is need to train people in adaptable skills to enable the youth to stay relevant in the future of work. Additionally, firms need to continuously build the capacity of employees, while government, the private sector and tertiary institutions must invest in research to know the types of skills that are relevant to the job market.