Mrs Comfort Ocran, the Chairperson of the Youth Sector Engagement Group (Y-SEG), a policy advocacy group, said Ghana needed to expand economic opportunities for its young people to ensure sustainable and equitable growth.
She said it was very critical to build the necessary bridges that would enable young people to develop their capacities and skills to be able to lead in the establishment of sustainable youth-led enterprises.
Speaking at the maiden multi-sector dialogue on youth employment and skills development in Accra on Tuesday, Mrs Ocran said Ghana’s youth population represented an enormous opportunity for economic growth and social development, and so they needed to be resourced to help reduce unemployment.
The dialogue, which was on the theme: “Creating a Responsive Environment for Youth Skill Development and Youth-led Enterprises,” was part of an initiative to facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue among people from different sectors of the economy. Y-SEG is associated with the Youth Forward Initiative project and Learning Partnerships, which are being implemented in Ghana and Uganda in partnership with MasterCard Foundation.
The Youth Forward Initiative project, therefore, seeks to create economic opportunities for out of school young people. Mrs Ocran said through the series of dialogue, Y-SEG aspired to facilitate a joint dialogue on policies and the challenges that youth unemployment and under-employment posed to the country.
She said the Ghana Statistical Service 2010 Population Survey indicated that almost one out of every four people in Ghana was reported to be aged 20-35 years. The National Youth Policy also defines youth as persons aged from 15-35 years, which constitute about a third of the population.
However, the World Bank (2016) estimated that nearly 48 per cent of Ghanaian youth were unemployed, and majority of those who were in work were employed in low-paid and vulnerable jobs.
Ghana Statistical Service 2014 report on Ghana's Labour Force has projected that by 2020 about 72 per cent of the country’s population would be under 35 years. Mrs Ocran noted that current statistics show that despite Ghana’s middle income status, young people struggled to get decent employment opportunities, which had become a key barrier to development in the country.
She mentioned some of the barriers to decent employment for young people as; the cost of acquiring new skills; deterioration in the quality of job opportunities; and challenges of school-to-work transitions. Other barriers are mismatch between skills and available jobs in the labour market; inadequate coaching and mentorship schemes and a lack of focused youth programmes in the informal sector.
“We hope to organise this programme annually to address various issues affecting youth development. This dialogue will be backed by evidence and youth perspectives. It will also explore ways to leverage relevant initiatives to achieve successful transitions for youth into adulthood,” she said.
She expressed the hope that the dialogue would generate national discussions on innovative approaches and policies to promote decent employment and economic opportunities for young people.
Ms Katheleen Beegle, the Programme Leader of the World Bank, said the role of the public sector in providing jobs for the youth was becoming so challenging and, therefore, the need to have a strong private sector that would partner government to create an enabling environment needed for sustainable employment and economic growth.
She said the World Bank was already discussing with the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and the Government five pillars that were critical to be tackled and pushed to help address youth unemployment.
These pillars include agricultural production, especially agribusiness, which Mrs Beegle said had a huge potential to transform economic growth, and then entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, pre-employment support and Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET) programmes, which needed critical attention. Mr Joe Tackie, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Business Development, said the UN had estimated that more than 200 million youth were joining the job market yearly, and out of that almost about 80 per cent of them were coming from developing countries.
"This is a real challenge and we need to find a way to deal with it,” Mr Tackie said.
He noted there was the need to address the issues at the very early stages of youth development, who had creative ideas and could come out with very creative solutions when given the needed support and mentorship.
Mr Takie said Government was working diligently through the Sector Ministry to ensure that the business environment was conducive to address and meet the challenges of the youth. He said the National Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan, launched by President Akufo-Addo some weeks ago, was a flagship programme, which the Ministry was working with to, among other things, help point out business opportunities to the youth.