No Jobs Despite High Economic Growth

Ghana has been posting very high economic growth rates in the past few years, but employment figures have fallen far behind, says Dr Baah Boateng, an economist with the University of Ghana. Speaking in Accra, Dr Boateng, who lectures at the Department of Economics, said, “Over the past decade, our growth has been driven by sectors that are not employment friendly, sectors that do not have high labour absorption capacity. We are growing but employment is suffering. So employment generation suffers when growth is not of good quality.” Dr Boateng made the remarks at a seminar on jobs and livelihoods organised by the Economic Justice Network (EJN), a civil society organisation, in Accra last Thursday. He was speaking on employment, growth and development in Ghana. Quoting from the Ghana Living Standards Survey for 2006, Dr Boateng disclosed that 75.4 per cent of Ghanaians were in vulnerable employment, which is euphemistically referred to as employment. “They are in vulnerable employment because these are people who wake up in the morning and pray that when they go to the market people should buy their wares and that includes hawkers who sell watches and other products in town.” Such people who do not live on permanent incomes are unable to withstand the effect of any negative shock. According to the survey, 25.6 per cent of Ghanaians were working but found themselves in households that lived below the poverty line. “As at 2006, about a quarter of people working in Ghana were living in households that were considered to be poor.” According to Dr Baah Boateng, if the economy was doing well the vulnerable employment rate and the working poverty rate should be going down. He reminded participants that the appreciable growth rate of 14 per cent recorded was driven in main part by oil, and argued that a growth rate of good quality should have the manufacturing sector playing a major role. Growth should translate into employment and employment generation is a function of economic growth, he added. He reminded participants that “growth is just a necessary but not a sufficient condition for employment generation.” On employment by sectors, Dr Boateng said the fact that the services sector had overtaken the agricultural sector in terms of growth was ample evidence that the latter was woefully unproductive. He attributed the problem to the manner in which the Ghanaian economy was structured. “Policies are not well coordinated because one finds that the Ministry of Trade can come out with an industrial strategy and then the Ministry of Food and Agriculture also comes out with its policy and they are not synchronised at all,” he lamented. Dr Baah Boateng proposed that all policies prior to their implementation should be geared towards the creation of employment and an improvement in the livelihoods of Ghanaians.