Unemployment in Ghana

by Karin Scott, Global Paradigm Fellow in Ghana
October 04, 2011

 

The high rate of unemployment throughout the country, especially among the young population, is a conspicuous problem in Ghana. As many countries around the world are experiencing abnormal amounts of unemployment currently this may not seem unusual. However, Ghana’s rate of unemployment is not a result of the economic downturn that has hit North America and Europe. Rather unemployment has long been a problem in Ghana and continues to be a political issue, especially during the current campaign season.

The unemployment among Ghanaians ages 18-25 is visibly present everyday. As I ride a tro tro on the way to my internship countless numbers of young men and women are selling items on the streets, literally right outside your window. These items vary from windshield wipers to pastries to maps of Ghana. These young people spend over twelve hours a day out on the busy streets of Accra hoping to make a few cedis. Unskilled jobs in Ghana exist in very small numbers, and many are forced to peddle because of a lack of other options. Industry in Ghana lacks infrastructure and large manufacturers are few and far between. Even if those options were available, unions do not exist here. Often construction workers or other laborers have to accept very low wages because competition is high and contractors can always find another person willing to work for a lower price.

The poor job market in Ghana affects not only lower-wage earners; young university students have voiced their frustrations as well. Last fall, University of Ghana students went on strike for three weeks because finding employment after graduation has become so difficult. Although only a fraction of Ghanaian youth have the opportunity to attend college, many leave the country after they graduate because of better employment opportunities elsewhere. This creates the infamous brain drain in Ghana and hurts its prospects for development.

The high percentage of unemployment continues to be a hotly debated issue and young people continue to plead with President Mills for some sort of action. As little has been done to improve the situation, the issue will definitely be an important topic in the upcoming election.