Notes from the Ghanaman File:  Employed, unemployed or under-employed?

  Unemployed graduates
Among the key issues in this year’s elections which has been brought to the front burner is the issue of unemployment. To the extent that we have an Unemployed Graduates Association in this country means the matter must be worrying and indeed one of the factors that some voters will consider in casting their votes.
Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment must be a great headache for every government because the devil finds work for idle hands. In a paper; ‘Youth unemployment in Ghana: prospects and challenges’, J.Y Amankrah (2006) of the Statistical Service described Ghana’s population as having a youthful structure and described Ghana’s employment rate as one of the highest in the world. So what is the current percentage of youth and graduate unemployment in Ghana?
Recently, Dr Bawumia put it at 48% which means that almost half of the employable population in our country do not have any means of livelihood. But earlier in the year, when the president met the media he said the figure wasn’t known and that the world Bank was going to embark on a project to help the Statiscal Service to get that data. Whatever figure we have as a country may still not portend well for us.
The Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Germany in a report categorizes unemployed youth into ‘educated unemployed’ and ‘illiterate unemployed’. The Center for Development Research,2011) describes the rising unemployment of the educated as more dangerous for the third world countries apart from posing challenges of high immigration to European countries. The reason is that, an educated youth who has been exposed to all kinds of ideas could use those ideas for wrong ventures when in desperate situations.
In its 2015 report, a group of British MPs in their engagement with DFID warned that the world needs to wake up to “the ticking time bomb” of youth unemployment in developing countries and treat the issue as seriously as humanitarian disasters and global efforts to eradicate diseases. I am sure the Arab spring is still on the mind of the world.
So Governments try to have policies to engage the youth to avoid the dangers in leaving them freely to roam our streets instead of doing something positive to earn a living. How as a country have we planned over the years or made policies about job creation if we do not have any accurate information on the number of people who need jobs? How can a government say for example that it has reduced unemployment and how can the opposition also say that the problem of unemployment is escalating?
By the way, is it all the people in Ghana who are without jobs who are looking for jobs? I ask because Unemployment means people actively looking for employment but unable to find employment. On that score, we can say that there may be people in our society who have no jobs but are not looking for jobs. Yes, I know a good number of people like that whom I have tried to get them jobs but have given excuses like ‘my uncle is preparing my documents to send me abroad’.
There is also the other issue of underemployment where somebody may be employed, but not fulltime and or not employed at one’s full potential given education, experience and training. If for lack of an opportunity for example, a Masters degree holder works as a clerk in a company to earn something to keep body and soul together, that person may be under-employed. This is can be subjective.
Indeed, in this country some people see employment only in the corporate environment. So some see university graduates who are not in white collar jobs as not employed. As an academic, I always argue that, our education could be creating more unemployed graduates. My question is, why a student who comes out with a university degree in agricultural science for example would believe that without getting a white collar job he or she is unemployed, especially if the parents are farmers.
I used to ask my undergrad students every day why for example, a marketing graduate whose mother is operating a ‘chop bar’ or any food joint will not apply his/her knowledge to brand and  grow that ‘chop bar’ or business into a prosperous enterprise but wants to be called an unemployed graduate. Some of the students have told me that even their parents will not allow them to do that because they will feel appalled to have their ‘graduate sons and daughters’ to  do ‘chop bar business’ or petty trading. They may see their investments in educating them wasted. Really?
So as the political parties debate which of them can create jobs, one may ask why they will not solve the problem by first getting a reliable data which will detail how many of country’s folks are without jobs and genuinely seeking for jobs. With that data, they should also look in the direction of our education and how it can be tailored to re-orient our youth to create their own jobs.
One other way to solve the problem must be to provide incentives for local companies which employ a certain number of people. Tax re-bates, capital support and bailouts must be ways to encourage people to set up companies to create jobs for the teeming population.
Until we meet again next week, ask yourself whether you are employed, under-employed, unemployed or you are idle but not interested in working.
By Kojo Ackaah-Kwarteng,Head of Station,Onua 95.1 FM    

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