In a country where the underemployment rate is 33% and 69% of the working population are in vulnerable employment, in addition to a situation where the chances of a major economic turnaround is faint, the prospects of a decent job for the fast-growing youth population look bleak.
Education experts and researchers have painted a grim picture about the growing graduate unemployment levels and warned that it is likely to climb to more than 271,000 this year from the current 200,000.
Studies by policy think-tanks such as the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Centre for Economic Policy Analysis (CEPA), and the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) have warned that unemployment among young people, particularly among graduates, have reached unacceptable levels.
A new study by CDD revealed that 14% of Ghana’s energetic unemployed school leavers have decided to travel abroad for greener pastures should their situations remain the same in six months.
The graduates have been unemployed in the labour market for a period of five years spanning from the time they completed their National Service.
Human Resource Consultant, Tahiru Mahmous believes unemployed graduates and youth unemployment in the country could be in the millions.
According to him, unemployed graduates in Ghana could be a little above one million whilst youth unemployment – mainly dropouts from senor high schools and junior high schools – are in the millions.
3,000 Applicants chase 5 positions
Speaking to The Finder, Mr Tahiru said though it is difficult to get independent and accurate labour figures, a survey by his institution shows that the unemployment situation in the country has reached an alarming rate.
For example, he said: “We advertised five positions for skilled workers this year and we got a little over 3,000 applicants. That tells you the extent of unemployment in Ghana.”
Today, unemployment seems to be the most serious development challenge confronting the nation, so much so that it has become the number one concern of Ghanaians that they want the government to address.
Constitution on employment
In Ghana, the importance of employment is underscored by the recognition of the right to work not only as a basic human right but also as a constitutional right.
Article 24 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, for instance, defines this right as an economic right: “Every person has the right to work.”
Article 34 (2) even makes it obligatory on the government to report annually the realisation of the right to work.
This right to work, however, is gradually becoming very difficult for both government and individuals to realise due to the rising levels of joblessness.
2015 Ghana Living Standards Survey 6
The 2015 Ghana Living Standards Survey 6 (GLSS)-Labour Force Report of Ghana Statistical Service is a nationwide household survey which provides information in assessing the living conditions in Ghanaian households, providing some startling statistics.
According to the survey, 80% of Ghanaians aged 15 and above are economically active, which means they are either employed or looking for a job.
It noted that 5.2% of the population aged 15 and older are unemployed, but many believe this figure is too low and does not represent the actual situation on the ground.
It stated that 75% of the population aged 15 and older are employed and the breakdown is as follows: Industry – 14%, Services – 41%; and Agriculture – 45%.
Services employ 41% of workers
It is commendable that the services employ 41% of workers in the country. However, most employees in the services yearn for a different job, and some even consider themselves unemployed because of low remuneration.
For example, it was reported in the media last year that, averagely, workers of a big restaurant were being paid GH¢3 per day – far below the daily minimum wage of GH¢7.
According to the report, staff receive between GH¢60 and GH¢250 as monthly earnings in this popular restaurant.
Therefore classifying such people is misleading considering the high cost of living in the country.
Agriculture employs 45% but…
The contribution of agriculture, the backbone of Ghana’s economy, to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has dropped by an alarming 12.8% in just seven years.
It dropped from 31.8% in 2009 to a mere 19% as of September 2015, a period of seven years.
With this alarming decline in the fortunes in agriculture, it is obvious that the fortunes of farmers have also declined.
Consequently, it is possible that most farmers no longer consider their profession as a good employment avenue and may be looking for other jobs.
It must be noted that most farmers depend on small land sizes; therefore, proceeds from their farms are woefully inadequate to take care of their families.
As a result, most farmers in the country, especially in areas where land is scarce and the farmers depend on rain-fed agriculture, see their profession as unsustainable employment.
It is common to receive the request from the youth in rural areas to help them secure jobs in urban areas since they can no longer depend on agriculture for a living.
Industry employs 14%
Business associations have over the years lamented the impact the high cost of doing business in Ghana is having on their operations.
Issues bordering on new and high taxes, increased utility tariffs, rising inflation and interest rates are some of the major factors hampering the growth of companies in the country.
Consequently, companies have laid off staff, especially during last year when the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) said over 13,000 Ghanaians lost their jobs as a result of the crippling power crisis, called dumsor.