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375 Ghanaian nurses for Barbados: A strong case for labour export

BY: Rodney Boateng
 The Writer Rodney Boateng
The Writer Rodney Boateng

This week, my guest columnist is Kwaku Addai Tardieh.

He is the Managing Director of Migration Solutions Ltd, a government-licensed private employment agency and a strong advocate and campaigner for labour export by Ghana. He writes…

President Akufo-Addo last week agreed in principle with the government of Barbados to supply the country with 375 Ghanaian nurses. Barbados has a shortage of nurses.

Ghana has thousands of nurses who have graduated and stayed home for years without a job.

So, Ghana reduces the number of unemployed nurses and generates employment for her unemployed citizens. Barbados solves her shortage of nurses problem, a win-win situation. And that is a summation of labour export.

Labour Export: Southeast Asia

Labour export as a state policy or programme became prominent mainly in the Southeast Asian countries of the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, etc., in the 1970s and 1980s.

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In the early 1970s, the oil boom in the Gulf region brought huge employment opportunities. These countries were small and needed a large number of workers for both blue and white-collar jobs in the fields of construction, hospitality, medicine, etc.

The Philippines is an excellent case study. Under the military dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s the country faced a dire unemployment situation, coupled with low wages. It was almost at a crisis level.
The economy itself was doing no better.

So the administration decided to formally export workers to mainly the Gulf countries to create employment and also increase remittances to families back home to help improve the economy.
What was meant to be an interim and ad hoc measure became more of a permanent feature with time, as the benefits were enormous.

Today, there are three state institutions in the Philippines that promote, generate and regulate labour exports, as well as take care of the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs.

We must be proactive

The unemployment rate in Ghana today is high. The 2015 Ghana Labour Force Survey by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) puts the unemployment rate within the labour force at almost 12 per cent or some 1.2 million Ghanaians.

Graduate unemployment is high. Ex-President Kufuor has stated that youth unemployment is a national security threat.

There are so many countries around the world that are facing dire shortage of labour. Germany needs 260,000 migrant workers each year to fill its labour shortage, a recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation has stated.

The UK and other European countries face a crisis in the agricultural sector as a shortage of seasonal farm workers is causing tonnes of fruits and vegetables to go rotten.

The UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany etc., have a huge shortage of nurses and geriatric caregivers. Japan’s ageing population has created a severe labour shortage. The Gulf Cooperation Countries of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar etc. depend almost entirely on foreign labour for all sectors.

The list is endless.

It is about time the government of Ghana took a bold and proactive step in finding employment opportunities for unemployed Ghanaians abroad as is being actively done by Nepal, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Thailand in Asia and of late by African countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Vietnam, for example, has an agreement with Germany, by which high school graduates are sent to Germany to be trained as nurses and work there for a specified period.

Labour attrition fears

The fear of attrition of the country’s skilled and trained workforce should we export labour is unfounded in my humble opinion. Strategic labour export should be pursued. If country A needs 5,000 nurses per year for the next 10 years, we can train nurses within three years and export them.

If country B needs 10,000 artisans a year, we can train artisans in less than two years.

There is a huge bulge of senior high school and tertiary graduates joining the labour force in the next few years due to the Free SHS policy.

After signing labour export agreements, we can train interested high school graduates in modules they are interested in to be employed abroad after training.

The benefits to the economy, including remittances back home by the workers we export abroad, are huge and we must leverage as quickly as possible.

The Barbados arrangement is an excellent start and I congratulate the President. May it lead to bigger things.

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