On Monday, December 11, 2017, Ghana launched the African Union’s Demographic Dividend Roadmap and Strategic Plan to harness the youthful human resource of the country to engender socio-economic development and ensure prosperity for all.
This followed an earlier programme launch on January 30, 2017, at the African Union’s 28th Ordinary Session of the Heads of States and Governments in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who outdoored the programme emphatically said: “The countries that have done well, even without natural resources, are the countries that have invested in education and skills training.
“What the evidence from history and the experience of many countries has shown is that, it is not natural resources that build nations.
“It is people who build nations. It is not gold, cocoa, diamonds, timber or oil that is going to build nations. If it was, it would have done so already. It is Ghanaians, especially the youth of today, who are going to build Ghana”.
President Akufo-Addo gave the assurance that his government would invest in quality, skill-specific human resource development in both secondary and tertiary levels.
He mentioned the Free Senior High School Policy, which was rolled-out on September 13, 2017, as one of the strategic policies government’s was adopting to tap the youthful resource of the nation to drive economic and industrial transformation.
However, the data from the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana has revealed that only 10 per cent of graduates find jobs after their first year of completing school.
The data also indicated that, it may take up to 10 years for a large number of graduates to secure employment due to varied challenges that ranged from the lack of employable skills, unavailability of funding capital for entrepreneurship, poor attitudes of graduates towards job opportunities, as well as the low capacities of industry to absorb the huge numbers.
It has therefore, become necessary for government to develop strategic policies to utilise the youthful resource or demographic dividend to engender socio-economic development.
Youth unemployment has been a topical issue for some time now. The phenomenon is not peculiar to Ghana, but a global challenge for several decades that has bedevilled many nations across the globe, including the developed or developing ones.
This global phenomenon has become more prominent since 2007 owing to the global economic crunch. Youth unemployment has increased by over 4 million totalling about 75 million and putting the current global rate at 12.6 per cent (ILO, 2012). Overall, 40 per cent of the global jobless people are the youth.
Demographic dividend refers to the process of accelerated economic growth that begins with changes in the age structure of a country’s population as it moves through the demographic transition from high to low birth and death rates.
This process is achieved through sustained fertility decline that results in a visible altering of the population pyramid of the country from one with a broader base, characterised by large numbers of children under 15 years old to one with a shrinking proportion of children and an increasing proportion of the population in the economically active ages between 15 and 64 years.
This onset of a demographic dividend opens a window of opportunity for harnessing the associated benefits through the successful implementation of key national policies.
There has been an appreciable decline in fertility over the past two decades, bringing changes in the age structure, which is tilted topwards the youth.
Evidence of the demographic dividend in Ghana comes from census data that indicated that, the proportion of population under 15 years old has fallen steadily from 46.9 per cent in 1970s to 38.3 per cent in 2010.
The proportion of the elderly population 65 years and above also increased from 3.6 per cent in 1970 to 5.3 per cent in 2,000, but declined to 4.7 per cent in 2010.
In terms of absolute numbers there were 1,167,532 elderly people in 2010 compared to 1,002,340 in 2000.The dependency ratio also declined from 102 per cent to 76 per cent between 1970 and 2010, while the median age of the population increased from 16.6 to 20.7 per cent within the same period.
The current demographic transition in Ghana indicates that, fertility has declined from 6.4 in the 1980s to 4.2 per cent in 2014; while the economically active population from 15-64 years has increased from 49.6 in 1970 to 57 per cent in 2010.
These are clear indications that a window of opportunity has opened for Ghana to take full advantage of the onset of the demographic dividend.
This means that as a country, we must progressively harness the benefits of demographic data by making strategic investments in the key sectors of the economy such as health, education, physical infrastructure and good governance in order to accelerate and sustained the progress made so far.
Under the governance structure, there is the need for government to adequately invest in governance issues such as strict adherence to the rule of law, stability, security, efficiency, accountability and transparency of State institutions.
In addition, there should be a resilient private sector, functioning government structure, provision of effective, efficient and equitable services, as well as an active civil society and a digital and social media revolution.
We therefore, need to resource and empower the National Youth Authority (NYA) adequately to perform the relevant policies and programmes.
The NYA must coordinate its activities in partnership with the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to harness the capacities of young persons’ at the local level.
Government should partner non-governmental organisations, the private sector, civil society entities and faith-based organisations to increase support for young people’s social entrepreneurship initiatives and invest in underprivileged youth in different geographical, social and religious settings to promote the development agenda.
With regards to policies and programmes intended to engender economic development, government should pursue an employment-centred economic growth strategy that would ensure sustained employment creation, especially for the growing numbers of the unemployed youth.
Government must invest in quality, skill-specific human resources development, placing entrepreneurship skills development at the centre of job creation, direct growth strategies towards employment-intensive sectors like agriculture and manufacturing under the “Plant for Food and Jobs” and the “One District, One Factory” initiatives and add value to the country’s primary commodities like cocoa, timber, gold and bauxite.
On educational policies and programmes, government should bridge the gender gap in school enrolment, especially in the secondary and tertiary levels from its own projection to increase net enrolment rate at the basic level to 100 per cent, 60 per cent at the secondary and 30 per cent at the tertiary levels by 2030.
The policies should be responsive to the changing labour market through the adaptation of a production-oriented approach with the knowledge and skills needed for economic development.
Government should find a way of exporting the trained and employable skills of the country’s human resource abroad that could fetch some foreign exchange as pertains in Cuba and other countries.
Government should focus on improving the quality of science and mathematics, information and communication technology, as well as improving technical and vocational education and training to address school drop-outs along the educational ladder.
On strategies to maintain demographic statistics within manageable levels, government should intensify family planning education campaigns among the sexually active population, to trigger and sustain the fertility decline, reduce teenage pregnancies and ensure proper dietary practices.
Reaping the benefit of demographic dividend is collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders; therefore there should be sustained awareness creation about demographic dividend at all levels of the society.
There should be a national effort to promote a culture of rights and responsibility, support people with disability to gain jobs, a comprehensive monitoring plan for the implementation of the Ghana’s Shared Growth and Development Agenda II across the ministries, departments and agencies and adequately resource the National Youth Authority to function effectively and efficiently.
It is hoped that policies such as National Digital Property Address System, National Identification System, e-registration of businesses at the Registrar-General’s Office and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority as well as the Paperless Ports Project would enhance government resolve to create a common database that would harmonise government activities to increase tax collection and inure to the benefit of the people.
By Godwill Arthur-Mensah