On Wednesday, October 6, 2021,the National Service Secretariat (NSS) released the postings for the 2021/22 service year which saw a total of 81,081 graduates from accredited tertiary institutions deployed to various user agencies nationwide.
Whilst these young vibrant graduates await with much optimism to provide their “service to the nation”, for most people, it only awakens the fears of the rising joblessness in the country.
One question that comes to mind: Are there sustainable jobs for the 86,478 NSPs who have just completed their mandatory national service this year? Data from the Secretariat show that over the past 7 years, the service had deployed a total of 547,111 fresh graduates to various user agencies across the country. This means that on average, 78,159 fresh graduates have been deployed as NSPs each year since 2015.
Even though there is no data to show the retention rate of NSPs by user agencies over the past 7 years, it is not far from true that only a small fraction of these graduates get the chance to be retained at the user agencies they served or to even gain employment the same year they completed their services.
On Monday, September 13, 2021, Anthony Amuzu-Pharin, Director of Social and Demographic at GSS, made a shocking revelation that it takes an average of five years to get a job after leaving school in Ghana. This shows how difficult it is to get employment as a fresh graduate in the country.
Private sector as the engine of growth
Of major concern is the fact that the private sector, touted as the engine growth, has not been able to expand at a pace that will provide employment for these teeming graduates. A critical analysis of NSS data over the past 7 years show that majority of these personnel are posted to the public sector which has little or no space to retain these young men and women.
For instance, in the 2019/2020 service year, out of a total of 77,962 graduates posted, the public sector received 66,348 personnel, representing 85.1% of the postings. The private sector received only 11,614 service personnel which accounted for 14.9% of the total deployment for the year.
Likewise, in the 2018/2019 service year, NSS deployed 85,927 prospective service persons to user agencies across the country. Out of the number, 75,855, representing 88.28 percent were posted to public institutions whereas 10,072, constituting 11.72 percent were deployed to private user agencies.
To take you further down the memory lane, in the 2017/2018 service year, the National Service Secretariat deployed 91,871 personnel to serve in various institutions as part of their 1-year mandatory service to the country. The acting Executive Director of the scheme, Ussif Mustapha who made the announcement at a press conference in Accra, said about 76,908, representing 84% of the service personnel were deployed to the public sector. According to him, the remaining 14,963, accounting for 16% of total postings, were to serve in the private sector.
Gov’t to take responsibility
If the above is anything to go by, the composition of the NSS deployment show that the private sector may not be the solution to graduate unemployment in the country. This means that whilst the government strive to create the enabling environment for private sector businesses to thrive and create jobs, more is required in revamping state owned institutions to absorb majority of the graduates after their mandatory service.
More especially, at this time when COVID-19 continues to bite hard on businesses, leaving some on the urge of total collapse. It is therefore, unmistakable that the government must be at the forefront for job creation in the country.
Developments at a recent job fair organized by the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) in September this year, show the severity of the unemployment situation in the country. Whilst the YEA advertised about 3,000 job vacancies, youth, numbering over 10,000, were seen struggling to enter the building to secure jobs.
The staggering number of youth entering the labor market each year, remains a major headache for the country. This is because high unemployment rate poses major security threat to all and sundry as “the devil finds work for idle hands”.
Need to diversify the economy
A recent report titled ‘Employment creation potential, labor skills requirements, and skill gaps for young people: Ghana case study’ published in the Brookings by Economists Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Dr. Priscilla Twumasi Baffour, and Prof. Festus Ebo Turkson, called for the need to diversify the economy from mineral dependence through industrial transformation.
The case study identified agro-processing and tourism as two of the sectors that hold the potential to address the country’s rising unemployment rate. The authors argued that these sectors can enhance the competitiveness and productivity of small and medium-sized firms in the country.
This further lends support for the need to throw more weight behind the government’s industrialization agenda which holds the key to sustainable job creation and economic transformation. Interim initiatives such as Nations Builders’ Corps (NABCO) are laudable but only amounts to kicking the can down the road.