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Youth employment: Seek ye first SDG#8, all others shall be added [Article]

File photo: Mfantseman Youth
File photo: Mfantseman Youth

Job creation, particularly for the youth, undoubtedly is the topmost policy issue that drives fiscal and monetary policy under the Akufo-Addo administration.

Recent data from the Ghana Prisons Service shows that youths between 18-35years over the last four years (2012-2015) constitute 76.1 percent of the convicted prisoner population in Ghana. Given this backdrop, Government of Ghana’s policy agenda to drive growth and create employment through a decentralized industrialization program is a reasonable response based on an appreciation of this social imperative and the need to avert the paradox of demographic dividend.

In a bid to achieve all SDG goals by 2030, there is a real risk of spreading oneself too thin in trying to realize economic, social and environmental outcomes within same time frame.

But there is a sound theoretical basis to argue that pursuing SDG#8 (sustained economic growth) will lead to poverty reduction, which translates into food security (SDG#1 & 2) and also help provide for investment in health and education (SDG#3 & 4).

Another compelling argument why SGG#8 needs to be top priority for Government of Ghana 2018/2019 budget, is that sustained growth provides the fiscal space to tackle issues related to clean energy, sanitation and gender equality (SDG#5, 6 & 7).

To the extent that fiscal investments are critical to achieving all 17 SGDs, then economic growth (SDG#8) is of prime importance. It is commonsensical therefore that Ghana adopts the maxim “seek ye first economic growth and decent jobs…”, because it’s the only sustainable way to create fiscal space for investments in Youth Employment Agency (YEA) programs and support activities under National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP).

The real challenge is to identify and manage the key risks to growth outlook, to wit; (a) domestic revenue mobilization, and (b) declining multi-donor budgetary support or Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).

youth-employment

Youth Employment Strategy: YEA or NEIP?

The important policy question is this: what is the optimal path to creating sustainable employment for the youth in a way that does not continue to burden the public purse? To reframe the question: what must the policy orientation be, social protection or productive inclusion? A critical examination will help to clarify the potential impact of GoG’s two key employment programs; Youth Employment Agency (YEA) and National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP).

Public policy response to address youth joblessness must satisfy 3 important criteria in order to be effective, sustainable and impactful:

  1. It must be private sector driven. That means improving youth entrepreneurial capacities.
  2. Fiscal commitments to public employment programs must be designed as stop-gap measure and scheduled to terminate at a certain future date. This will help conserve revenue for other critical investments in social and environmental programs.
  3. Results framework must incorporate data management plan to help with ex post evaluation studies (see Fig. 4).

youth-employment1

 

Policy Recommendations

  1. Government must clarify the program logic and results chain of National Entrepreneurship Innovation Plan (NEIP).
  2. A clear exit arrangement has to be incorporated into YEA program to help graduate beneficiaries into an entrepreneurship capacity-building incubator program.
  3. The incubator program should have vertical linkage with NEIP to help provide venture finance for start-ups that graduate from program.
  4. YEA should be subsumed under the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection instead of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) and should be progressively scaled back to focus exclusively on programs that contribute to environmental sustainability. In this regard, aggregation with Labor Intensive Public Works (LIPW) program under Ghana Social Opportunities Project (GSOP) will help pool efficiencies.

By: Nkunimdini Asante-Antwi (n.asante-antwi@metisdecisions.com)