Ghana’s population has a youthful structure, with approximately 57 per cent being under the age of 25. This number is expected to double by the year 2030, according to the Ghana Statistical Service. Unemployment is in different forms, but the very common ones are voluntary and involuntary unemployment. The need to create employment for our youth is very pertinent to the national security of the country. In recent times, there has been a rise in cases of armed robbery, cyber-crime and many deviant behaviours among the youth, which goes to reiterate the adage the “devil finds work for idle hands”.
In the field of economics, voluntary unemployment is defined as a situation where the unemployed person chooses not to accept a job at the going wage rate. On the other hand, involuntary unemployment occurs when a person is willing to work at the prevailing wage, yet remains unemployed.
Firstly, a lot of youth have very great ideas but cannot implement them as a result of little or no funding sources for their ideas. Very high interest rates and high collateral demands from financial institutions have made the acquisition of funds a no-go area for young people and smallholder business owners.
Government has done some work in providing flexible sources for startup for businesses, but its efforts are woefully inadequate to meet the teeming number of youth who need such support. It would be more effective if the government made loans easy to acquire for the youth under a well-planned youth entrepreneurship scheme in all the 16 regions of the country. This would enable young people who already have such talents and business ideas to start businesses, which in the long run will help in the creation of more job opportunities. This will make Ghana an attractive investment destination for young people around the world, especially those in the diaspora who want to start up businesses.
Secondly, the government must provide entrepreneurs with well-structured spaces to run their businesses at subsidized costs. The high cost of doing business, including high cooperate taxes and cost of rent, has increased over the years and led to the crippling of young businesses and making most of them not profitable. This will be a great way to support young businesses. Also providing lower interest rates, making friendly trade policies for entrepreneurs, and retaining of National Service personnel after their yearly mandatory national service should be continued. The government must ensure a good number of service personnel are retained by their organisations. This would ensure the employment of our youth since the government is the largest employer. More so, the agenda to industrialize the country must be given a shot in the arm because the manufacturing sector also employs a lot of people.
The industrial parks and enclaves made available in all 16 regions of the country and tax breaks should be given to organizations who employ the youth. If this is done very intentionally, the cases of rural-urban migration would be mitigated and reduced to the barest minimum.
More industries should be set up in the country to make good use of the labour available locally. They can run 24-hour work schedules and pay workers based on the hours worked. This would thereby require more hands on board. Some of the government sector agencies could employ the youth through a shift system. So each person can work within some hours and get paid on hourly or weekly basis. Improving the quality and quantity of employment opportunities directly links economic growth to poverty reduction.
As the population grows, there would be more mouths to feed and so agriculture would always be a sector that has the capacity to employ a lot of the youth. The sector employs 65 per cent of Ghana’s rural population, according to statistics from the Ghana Statistical Service. A lot of work however must be done to make the sector attractive to the youth. The government can curb the issues of unemployment by focusing and investing more in our agriculture sector. The support can come to the youth in the way of the provision of large tracts of lands, purposely for youth farmers, and also giving them some grants to start or expand their operations.
It will increase the production of food crops and create more opportunities for the youth who want to venture into farming. This would also provide enough raw materials for the agro processing industry to also increase the level of production and employment. The growth in the agriculture sector will translate into an increase in export of more farm produce and processed products.
This will bring more investors into the country, and it will make the economy grow to develop the nation. The government should also patronize more locally produced goods and services. It can give out contracts to capable local businesses to help further develop their expertise and create more jobs for the youth.
The improvement of our educational system is the key to our development agenda as a country and also to curb the problem of unemployment. The need to improve our vocational and technical education is a good way of improving the human capital for industrialization. It will be in order to suggest making technical and vocational studies compulsory in the schools. This will help each student learn skills from school and can make an impact on their lives for the better.
The learning of practical skills from technical and vocational courses would give the youth employable skills which can help them start their own businesses in cases where they do not get employed in the mainstream. The government can also support technical, vocational education and training (TVET) by retooling and renovating teaching and learning facilities. Also, private companies should be encouraged to take students during vacation for industrial attachments to improve their knowledge in the sectors they want to venture into after their educational life. Regular participation in workshops and seminars, provision of entrepreneurship programmes, internships, coaching and mentorship should be encouraged among students to prepare them before they enter the working world. The policies that reward companies and investors who intentionally include in their plan to employ unemployed youth should be given some seriousness by the government.
Effect of unemployment on the family
Ghanaians, by culture, believe in the family system where each member helps to better the lot of the family as a whole. In the situation where someone is gainfully employed, he or she would be the sole breadwinner of the family and provide care and protection to his/her family. An unemployed person at home becomes a burden on the family. He is seen as addition to the hardship the family is trying to extricate themselves from. When the breadwinner of the family is unemployed, the consequences are far-reaching, in that some children lose their education while other children are forced into child labour and early marriages. It also creates a lot of deviant youth since the kids are left on the streets of big towns to fend for themselves without any proper skills. Unemployment increases poverty and hardship, strains family relationships, causes poor mental and physical health, among others. The need to ensure a large majority of our youth are gainfully employed is really important if the family system we have enjoyed over centuries can be maintained.
Effect on religion
We live in a country where about 99 per cent of the population are religious, which makes religion an integral part of our lives. A lot of churches depend most often on the offerings of the congregation as an income to run church operations and to support the activities of the church in the community it is located. The onset of COVID-19 made this assertion very clear, as some churches were on the verge of collapse following the lockdown on all activities that involved the gathering of people. Unemployed people can never contribute to the funding of the church’s budget. It would be a good idea that churches would venture into establishing farms, hospitals, schools and create avenues for young people to be gainfully employed. A lot of churches have taken the lead in doing some of these initiatives, but since the case of unemployment has increased to a record high, churches should relook at giving back to the society and helping in the best way they can to engage the unemployed members of their congregation.
The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) has expressed the hope the new investment inflow registered with the Centre last year will generate about 27,110 jobs when they become fully operational. According to the Centre, 95.46 per cent of the jobs would be reserved for Ghanaians while the remaining 4.54 per cent would go to expatriates. The jobs would be generated from the 279 projects that were registered with the center last year. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic that broke out last year.
The pandemic has exposed the need to expedite the process of moving Ghana to a situation beyond aid. That is why the government has developed and is currently implementing the one hundred billion cedis Ghana CARES Obaatampa programme to revitalize and modernize our economy and return it to high and sustained growth for the next three years.
Some of the key projects under the one hundred billion Ghana CARES programme include:
- Supporting commercial farming and attracting educated youth into commercial farming.
- Building the country’s light manufacturing sector.
- Developing Ghana’s housing and construction industry and establishing Ghana as a regional hub.
- Creating jobs for young people and expanding opportunities for the vulnerable in the society including persons with disabilities.
Suggested policy directives
The government must:
- provide enough support funds for COTVET/ TVET;
- support youth entrepreneurship;
- invest more in the agricultural sector;
- invest more in career guidance and counseling, work- based learning, coaching and mentoring to equip young people and
- maximize impact by scaling-up priority areas in the existing youth employment plan and improve outreach to the youth.
The youth should also:
- be more innovative.
- gather skills that create opportunities for self-employment.
- offer free services where possible to support each other to gain knowledge and experience in preparation for permanent work.
- create opportunities in fields that are rapidly evolving as a result of technological innovation, for example software development.
- improve on information marketing.
In conclusion, the idea of reducing or solving the problem of youth unemployment is a national security issue, and must be given the needed attention it deserves. The development of our country hinges on the quality and quantity of our human capital in all the sectors of the economy. Capital should therefore be made available for youth who want to start their own businesses.