“I am determined to work to guarantee and secure the future of the young men and women of our country,'' said President Nana Akufo-Addo during his State of the Union Address last year. Before his electoral victory in 2016, Akufo Addo had promised to create thousands of new jobs - but so far it appears that little has changed.
Why the youth focus? Youth unemployment remains a major socio-economic and political problem in Ghana. The problems that young people face in finding a proper job, make them sensitive to misbehaviour and potential sources of conflict and civil disorder. The increasing street hawking of young people and the migration of Ghanaians across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean are symptoms of the labour market challenges and also reflect a sense of hopelessness.
However, there is no consensus around specific numbers. The World Bank states in its last report on jobs in Ghana that 48% of the youth (15 - 24 years old) in the country do not have jobs, whereas the Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS) says the number is 15,3% and Statista claims it to be only 4,9%.
Why is it so difficult to find an accurate unemployment rate? Professor Owusu of the University of Ghana explains that there are two reasons for the lack of (reliable) data on youth unemployment. Firstly, Ghana has weak institutional structures for the collection of data on the unemployed. Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) does not have data on the youth unemployment, except surveys which are far in between. And secondly, it is challenging to define the unemployed, especially in the informal sector.
Yet, only when you know the actual size of the problem, you can find structural solutions.
And the sooner Ghana finds solutions, the better. The growing economy is not making any long term differences if they happen alongside worrisome youth unemployment developments and fast-growing population. Unemployment is an indicator of malfunctions of the structure of a society and its economy.
The slow response of jobs to strong economic growth has been linked to the sources of economic growth over the years. The economy’s growth comes mostly out of sectors that do not generate sufficient jobs, such as mining and oil.
Perhaps the most troubling trend is that the youth unemployment rate is higher among the educated than the less educated, according to the GLSS. A huge gap exists between the mindsets of Ghanaians - the white-collar mentality - and the actual, available jobs. Instead of students being rewarded for investing ten thousands of cedis in education, they end up jobless with a huge debt.
Let’s invest more in our future generation and bring Ghana to the next level.