The issue of unemployment continues to be the most challenging development issue that most African leaders: if not all, do grapple with. In Ghana, where the population is largely considered a youthful population, coupled with the high demand for sustainable jobs, makes the situation more frightening. Therefore, requires stringent measures.
Close to an unimaginable 57 per cent of the population are persons between the ages of 15-24. It is further estimated that over 300,000 youth complete their courses yearly from the various tertiary institutions across the country, that is, universities, polytechnics, colleges of education. However, out of this number, only a handful gets to be employed. Available data indicates that only 10 per cent of graduates get employed each year. This has further compounded the woes of young job seekers, who literally depend on their parents for survival in the absence of their dream jobs.
Seeking for a job in recent times has become a herculean task for those who are principled enough to control frustrations to resist the temptation of becoming a prey to the “sex for employment” and the “whom you know” canker. This syndrome has lingered for a very long time. It has caused many young graduates’ sleepless nights, even in some cases, depression has occurred, to the extent that some resort to suicide.
Others must channel their frustrations into substance abuse. This has largely contributed to the hike in recorded cases of drug users across the continent. This unemployment subject is one that must not be discussed in isolation. The conversation must be done in a way that addresses other phenomena like; mental health, rural-urban migration, cross-border crime and illegal migration since such societal ills are mostly triggered by unemployment. The outbreak of the dreadful COVID-19 has even made matters worse. According to the Ministry of Employment, over 11,000 people have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
Over the past three decades, successive governments have attempted to institute policies that seek to mitigate unemployment and its impact. Despite that, their efforts turn out to be a knee -jerk approach, fashioned out as propaganda and political tools that are put in place to attract votes and to misappropriate public funds.
Against this background, there is an urgent need to address the youth unemployment phenomenon. In doing so, efforts to curb unemployment must be done in a manner that deals with the canker head-on and ruthlessly. Usually, policymakers turn to focus on the symptoms rather than dealing with the root causes. These root causes are often economic, socio-political and socio-cultural in nature, which requires deeper and broader consultations and dialogues.
Living without a job is a multifaced and multisectoral phenomenon that requires a broader stakeholder engagement in formulating practicable solutions and policies that are tailored towards actualising sustainable employment. Stakeholder engagement must be contextualised in a manner that affords educationists, government officials, chamber of commerce, youth leaders, economic operators and civil society organisations (CSO) an active role in resolving the issues that breed unemployment in Ghana.
To fully root out the occurrence and reoccurrence of youth unemployment and its excesses, stakeholders must take into cognisance the following questions:
- Are the youth employable, that is, do they have the requisite knowledge and skills that the current job market demands?
- Are they ready for the 4thindustrial revolution?
Answers to these and many other questions offer a greater opportunity and insight for stakeholders in finding a lasting solution: Solutions that put the current and the future generations in a favourable pedestal that brings dignity and reverence to the average Ghanaian youth.
Over the last 62 years, Ghana has overly relied on an educational system that, to a large extent, rewards students who can memorise and reproduce during examinations (theoretically) to the neglect of practical and technical education. Certainly, this form of education is unfit for purpose relative to the kind of graduates that are produced elsewhere particularly in the global north. If this situation is not checked, its effects will not only deepen unemployment, but it will also deepen the country’s continuous dependence on experts and technocrats from China and Europe in the construction industry, for example. who compete for skilled jobs in the country.
Additionally, government officials and financial experts often refer to the private sector as the engine of growth. If indeed that assertion is factual, then deserving attention must be extended to the private sector by providing an enabling environment for small to medium scale enterprises to thrive. Entrepreneurship is one major avenue through which Ghana can create thousands of sustainable jobs. Therefore, it is important to encourage budding entrepreneurs. Deliberate measures like soft loans, tax holidays among other stimulus packages should be given to young entrepreneurs because their continuous stay in business will not only fight unemployment, it will also go a long way to increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Ghana.
Given that the youth are the widely acclaimed future leaders; unemployment certainly should not be allowed to be a part of the numerous problems that already confront them.
The destiny of our continent is not dependent on the abundance or the purity of our gold; but it rests on the dignity, confidence, and the survival of today’s youth.