Barriers and Solutions to Youth Employment in the Ghanaian Construction Sector

Unemployment among youth in Ghana continues to increase despite more than two decades of strong economic growth trends and a substantial expansion in education and overall human resource development. The World Bank estimates that of the total number of people who are unemployed, 65% are between 15 and 24 years. The most recent Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS) reports that three of every ten youth in Accra and 23% of youth in other urban areas in Ghana are unemployed.

Studies have shown that the labor-intensive construction sector offers great potential to address this challenge. While the industry’s growth has been slowed by macroeconomic constraints, it remains an important source of job opportunities. The sector currently employs approximately 316,368 people, of whom 98% work in the informal sector. Micro- and small-scale firms (including self-employed workers) constitute 81% of all businesses in the construction sector, while large firms account for only 1%. The sector employs only 3.5% of working young people, 91% of whom are in the informal sector, according to the GLSS 6. Of those in the informal sector, 29% are employees while 27% are apprentices and 21% casual workers.

There has been growing concern of possible skills gaps in the construction sector over the next decades. The supply shortage is projected to be particularly pronounced for artisans and tradesmen. The Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE) was designed to assist economically-disadvantaged youth to fill this gap, offering a career pathway into Ghana’s construction sector. Implemented from 2015 to 2020 by Global Communities in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, YIEDIE helped more than 25,000 youth, 30% of them female, develop skills needed in the construction sector. A skills gap analysis conducted at the beginning of the project identified 15 trade areas in which demand for skilled workers will likely outpace supply in the future, including masonry, plumbing, landscaping, air conditioner installation, machine operation, surveying, plaster of Paris design and painting.

This brief describes the barriers to youth employment in the construction sector and the YIEDIE project’s approach to addressing these barriers. Finally, the brief draws out lessons learned for future programming.

Read the learning brief entitled “Barriers and Solutions to Youth Employment in the Ghanaian Construction Sector: Lessons Learned from the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE)” here.