Unemployment conundrum -110,000 Youth graduate from universities every year

BY: Maclean Kwofi

The government in recent years has initiated some interventionist programmes such as the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO), One District, One Factory (1D1F), Planting for Food and Jobs, and Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ), the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP), the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) and the National Youth Authority (NYA) in a bid to salvage the unemployment situation.

Towards that, the Ministry of Finance in the 2021 budget announced the government's intentions to create at least one million jobs within the next three years.

Job hunting

Nonetheless, Daniel Nsoh (not his real name), a resident of Korle Gonno in Accra, was 23-years-old when he completed National Service, ready for employment to advance the cause of an employer and to also start his life.

At 36-years-old in 2021, the researcher with a BSc in Sociology (Second Class Upper), is still job-hunting. In the space of 13 years, Daniel has lost count of the number of application letters he has submitted, the interviews attended, the aptitude tests written and the number of ‘big people’ he has pleaded his case to but to no avail.

What he remembers with scorn is the parting words that are now almost accustomed with his hundreds of interactions with potential employers: “You will hear from us.”

From knocking at offices to submit application letters and to follow up on same to emailing and phone calling, Daniel told the Daily Graphic last Thursday that he had done virtually all that there was to secure a job but no window had opened yet.

Part-time jobs have come in handy but with them, he had struggled to keep body and soul together. He still lives in the single bedroom he rented during national service days although he managed to complete a masters programme in Public Health in 2016 to enhance his employability.

Bigger problem

A victim of the scourging unemployment challenge, Daniel is one of hundreds of thousands of young brains nationwide that are struggling to be employed in an economy that churns out more graduates than it creates jobs.

The World Bank estimates that more than 110,000 of youth graduate from universities every year but the low economic output, especially in the non-oil and mineral extractive sectors mean that more than 12 per cent of the youth are unemployed and more than four times that number are underemployed.
When it comes to unemployment, the country’s strong growth rates in recent times have failed to translate into jobs, largely as a result of the natural resource-dependence nature of the economy.

Last month, a Ghana Statistical Service survey found that graduates spent an average of five years job-hunting.

Why Data

Data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the last 30 years (between 1991 and 2020) showed fluctuations with regards to the country’s unemployment rates.

From 4.66 per cent in 1991, the percentage of the country's labour force that are without jobs rose to an alarming 10.36 per cent in 2000, before dropping to 4.64 per cent in 2006.

After ending at 6.81 per cent in 2015, the unemployment rate in Ghana declined again to 4.22 per cent in 2017.

Last year, the unemployment rates started increasing yet again from 4.12 per cent in 2019 to 4.53 per cent, raising questions over the impact of the various interventions and programmes instituted by the government to address the situation.

In 2016, the World Bank projected that, given the country’s growing youth population, 300,000 new jobs would need to be created each year to absorb the increasing numbers of unemployed young people.

Programmes and interventions

One million jobs

The Ministries of Employment and Labour Relations, Lands and Natural Resources, as well as Youth and Sports were charged to implement an inter-ministerial strategy for jobs to achieve the desired one million jobs.

Subsequently, the Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee (IMCC) and Sector Technical Committees were established to support the implementation of programmes and sub-programmes.

The key components of the strategy include green jobs and sustainable agriculture; skills development and labour outsourcing; alternative employment and livelihood; and creative arts and digitalisation.

The government is also expected to commence the implementation of the Ghana Jobs and Skills Project for the full operationalisation of the Ghana Labour Market Information System.

The objective is to support skills development and job creation for Ghanaians. It also aims at helping the government to better respond to the imperative of creating decent jobs for the youth and rapidly growing labour force.

Chamber’s support

Supporting efforts by the government to address the situation, the President of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Mr Clement Osei-Amoako, said the chamber was exploring new opportunities to bridge the industry-academia gap.

This, he said, was part of the chamber’s broad strategy of promoting and protecting commercial and industrial interests in the country.

“The success of any economy often rests on its entrepreneurs, enterprises and the enabling environment.

“Across the globe, enterprise remains a crucial engine of economic growth and for that matter governments are pursuing programmes that ensure a thriving enterprise,” he said.

The call, therefore, is the need to develop policy innovations to build and sustain the attitudes, resources, and infrastructure critical to support entrepreneurship and enterprise development.

Academia’s position

The President of the Regent University College of Science and Technology (RUCST), Professor Ernest Ofori Asamoah, in an interview with the paper in Accra, said to address the graduate unemployment situation in the country, academia, industry and other relevant stakeholders needed to form a strong partnership to prepare graduates for the corporate world.

He said it was for this reason why Regent started an initiative to collaborate with umbrella bodies of industries such as the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) and other associations to strengthen Ghana's workforce.

World Bank report

The World Bank, in a report titled “Youth Employment Programmes in Ghana: Options for Effective Policy Making and Implementation” identified agribusiness, entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, construction, tourism and sports as key sectors that can offer increased employment opportunities for Ghanaian youth.

It also called for more investments in career guidance and counseling, work-based learning, coaching and mentoring to equip young people with the skills needed for work.

The report suggested that although these are not new areas, the government could maximise their impact by scaling-up these priority areas in existing youth employment interventions and improve outreach to the youth.

Job opportunities needed

The Ghana Employers Association (GEA) maintained that the unemployment challenges will continue to intensify if job opportunities remain limited in the country.

To tackle the challenge, a Research Officer of the association, Mr Kingsley Laar, said the government should take keen steps that could help create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.

That, he said, would enable business to expand and engage more hands.

“Employment creation often depends on the existence of an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, expand and engage more people.

“But in Ghana, most businesses are faced with challenges such as high interest rates, duplication of taxes, repetition of roles by regulatory authorities and that affect the growth and ability of these enterprises to employ more,” he said.

He called for the development of a proper database on unemployed people in the country in order to disaggregate data on youth jobseekers by location, gender, skills.

He said it would inform policy and also enable the government to be able to respond with tailored employment interventions.

“We don’t have reliable data on unemployment and so normally, the numbers are based on projections and estimates rather than an accurate database,” he said.

Reactions

Some of the youth the paper engaged in Accra claiming they were either unemployed or underemployed after years of graduating from the university stated that it had become very difficult to secure jobs in recent times.

Others, who also enrolled in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes, said they were in search of financial support to establish themselves.

One of the jobseekers, Mr Mike Kwarshie, who graduated in 2013 with a Masters in Business Administration, said he was yet to secure a full-time job after eight years of graduating.

Lauding the government for the interventions designed to address the perennial problem of the graduate unemployment situation, he said the implementation was still a challenge and needed to be assessed to ensure equal opportunities for all Ghanaians.

“I see an intervention such as NABCO as a major national policy to tackle graduate unemployment but it needs to be implemented in a way that will provide a fair opportunity for all,” he said.

He said the country’s education system should be blamed for its increasing unemployment situation.

He said this was because the education system was still structured in a manner that produced graduates that could only read and write but not with the ability to solve real challenges in the society.

projected that, given the country’s growing youth population, 300,000 new jobs would need to be created each year to absorb the increasing numbers of unemployed young people.

Programmes and interventions One million jobs

The Ministries of Employment and Labour Relations, Lands and Natural Resources, as well as Youth and Sports were charged to implement an inter-ministerial strategy for jobs to achieve the desired one million jobs.

Subsequently, the Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee (IMCC) and Sector Technical Committees were established to support the implementation of programmes and sub-programmes.

The key components of the strategy include green jobs and sustainable agriculture; skills development and labour outsourcing; alternative employment and livelihood; and creative arts and digitalisation.

The government is also expected to commence the implementation of the Ghana Jobs and Skills Project for the full operationalisation of the Ghana Labour Market Information System.

The objective is to support skills development and job creation for Ghanaians. It also aims at helping the government to better respond to the imperative of creating decent jobs for the youth and rapidly growing labour force.

Chamber’s support

Supporting efforts by the government to address the situation, the President of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Mr Clement Osei-Amoako, said the chamber was exploring new opportunities to bridge the industry-academia gap.

This, he said, was part of the chamber’s broad strategy of promoting and protecting commercial and industrial interests in the country.

“The success of any economy often rests on its entrepreneurs, enterprises and the enabling environment.

“Across the globe, enterprise remains a crucial engine of economic growth and for that matter governments are pursuing programmes that ensure a thriving enterprise,” he said.

The call, therefore, is the need to develop policy innovations to build and sustain the attitudes, resources, and infrastructure critical to support entrepreneurship and enterprise development.

Academia’s position

The President of the Regent University College of Science and Technology (RUCST), Professor Ernest Ofori Asamoah, in an interview with the paper in Accra, said to address the graduate unemployment situation in the country, academia, industry and other relevant stakeholders needed to form a strong partnership to prepare graduates for the corporate world.

He said it was for this reason why Regent started an initiative to collaborate with umbrella bodies of industries such as the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) and other associations to strengthen Ghana's workforce.

World Bank report

The World Bank, in a report titled “Youth Employment Programmes in Ghana: Options for Effective Policy Making and Implementation” identified agribusiness, entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, construction, tourism and sports as key sectors that can offer increased employment opportunities for Ghanaian youth.

It also called for more investments in career guidance and counseling, work-based learning, coaching and mentoring to equip young people with the skills needed for work.

The report suggested that although these are not new areas, the government could maximise their impact by scaling-up these priority areas in existing youth employment interventions and improve outreach to the youth.

Job opportunities needed

The Ghana Employers Association (GEA) maintained that the unemployment challenges will continue to intensify if job opportunities remain limited in the country.

To tackle the challenge, a Research Officer of the association, Mr Kingsley Laar, said the government should take keen steps that could help create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.

That, he said, would enable business to expand and engage more hands.

“Employment creation often depends on the existence of an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, expand and engage more people.

“But in Ghana, most businesses are faced with challenges such as high interest rates, duplication of taxes, repetition of roles by regulatory authorities and that affect the growth and ability of these enterprises to employ more,” he said.

He called for the development of a proper database on unemployed people in the country in order to disaggregate data on youth jobseekers by location, gender, skills.

He said it would inform policy and also enable the government to be able to respond with tailored employment interventions.

“We don’t have reliable data on unemployment and so normally, the numbers are based on projections and estimates rather than an accurate database,” he said.

Reactions

Some of the youth the paper engaged in Accra claiming they were either unemployed or underemployed after years of graduating from the university stated that it had become very difficult to secure jobs in recent times.

Others, who also enrolled in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes, said they were in search of financial support to establish themselves.

One of the jobseekers, Mr Mike Kwarshie, who graduated in 2013 with a Masters in Business Administration, said he was yet to secure a full-time job after eight years of graduating.

Lauding the government for the interventions designed to address the perennial problem of the graduate unemployment situation, he said the implementation was still a challenge and needed to be assessed to ensure equal opportunities for all Ghanaians.

“I see an intervention such as NABCO as a major national policy to tackle graduate unemployment but it needs to be implemented in a way that will provide a fair opportunity for all,” he said.

He said the country’s education system should be blamed for its increasing unemployment situation.

He said this was because the education system was still structured in a manner that produced graduates that could only read and write but not with the ability to solve real challenges in the society.