One of the greatest problems that continue to plague our country at the present time is unemployment. Indeed, the rate of unemployment has reached such an alarming height that it has become an issue of concern for members of the public.
My worry heightens upon the observation that the unemployment situation has brought in its trail a wave of crime and lawlessness in all parts of the country, particularly in the big cities where armed robbery, pick-pocketing, prostitution and drug pushing are on the ascendancy. Just as our city pavements have become the hawking area of traders so have they been transformed into the sleeping place of beggars, all of whom show no regards for the law.
At the base of the unemployment problem is the high rate of population growth. Statistics have it that Ghana’s population increases at the rate of 2.3% per annum. The country’s population at independence was about 10million people. Forty years later, in 1997, this figure has risen to over 18million people.
Experts warn that unless measures are taken to control the population growth, the situation is likely to have disastrous effects on our economy. Certainly, these people need to be fed, provided housing, education and, of course, jobs to enable them live well. Unfortunately, while the country’s population keeps increasing at a fast rate, her economic growth is not high enough to provide for the teaming population. Against the background of an ever-increasing population, the economic decline which our economy suffered in the 70s and early 80s could not permit the government to create new job avenues for the unemployed masses. The private sector, already saddled with numerous difficulties, could not provide jobs either. As a result, our streets are choked with jobless youth who move from one workplace to another in search of non-existent jobs.
One factor which has contributed to the unemployment situation in our country is the mass retrenchment exercise carried out in state corporations. Desirous of injecting efficiency into distressed state-owned enterprises, Government was equally concerned with checking the problem of overstaffing in these organisations. Consequently, large numbers of government workers had to be laid off. Even though Government’s action could be considered a necessary evil, it brought untold hardships to the victims and their dependants. Frustrated, jobless and with little or nothing left of the retrenchment benefits paid them, these people continue to roam our streets in search of non-existing jobs. Linked with the retrenchment programme is the effects of the government’s trade liberalisation programme on our economy. Today, in the name of liberalisation, traders import all kinds of items from rusty refrigerators to used underwears. It is sad to note that some of our local industries produce the very product we import. Because they incur high production cost these industries quote prices that are higher than those of some imported products. The taste of the Ghanaian consumer for foreign goods makes matters worse for our local industries. With low patronage of their products, most of them have been forced to close down and lay off their workers. In certain cases some of the affected workers are not lucky enough to return home with any benefits. Unfortunately, it is the private sector described as the engine of growth, that has been badly affected.
The large number of school leavers without jobs reveals the seriousness of the unemployment situation in Ghana today. Each year students leave school with high hopes of securing jobs but as they enter the job market they notice to their disappointment, that they cannot be employed. This is because most of them do not have the skills needed for the few jobs that are available. Courses that most of our students offer in school are more academic-oriented than professional-oriented, a situation which conflicts with the present manpower needs of our country. Indeed, at this stage of our country’s development, we need more scientists, doctors, engineers, agriculturists than historians, poets and English scholars.
To tackle the problem of unemployment, it is important that Government pursues policies and programmes aimed at sustained and accelerated economic growth and opening up job opportunities for the unemployed masses. Apart creating the congenial atmosphere to attract foreign investors into the country, it is equally important for Government to support local investors so that they can create more jobs for the people. At the same time if conscious efforts are not made to bring down the rate of population growth then we are not likely to achieve the desired goals. It will be like washing our feet with our socks on. Indeed, the bulk of our population should be encouraged to take family planning seriously.
In addition, career guidance and counselling should be taken seriously in our schools.
It is a fact to be noted that unemployment is not peculiar to Ghana; it is indeed a global problem. I strongly believe that, having identified its causes, we should not spare efforts at ensuring that the rate of unemployment in our country is reduced.
Moses Tettey Dometey
Lower Manya krobo