Can Policy Engagement Create Youth Employment Opportunities? Lessons Learned from the YIEDIE Project

According to the World Bank, Ghana’s youth population increased from 1.1 million in 1960 to 4.6 million in 2010. A major concern of successive governments in recent years has been to create adequate, decent and sustainable jobs for the growing youth population. Relative improvements in the country’s GDP, which has averaged six percent growth within the last decade, have not translated into opportunities for the growing youth population. This has created a yawning gap in unemployment, though estimates of the numbers vary. The World Bank for instance estimates that of those unemployed, 65% are between 15 and 24 years while the most recent Ghana Living Standards Survey Round 6 reports that 3 in every 10 youths in Accra and 23% in other urban areas in Ghana are unemployed. This is further exacerbated by the fact that about 42% of youth between 15 and 24 years are underemployed. Despite these discrepancies, there is a general consensus on the need for sustainable solutions to address the unemployment challenge.

Interestingly, although the construction sector happens to be one of the fastest and consistently growing sub-sectors of the economy, with an impressive average growth of 8% per annum and a labour absorption rate of between 10 and 12% per annum, very little has been done to leverage this potential to create job opportunities for Ghana’s growing youth population.

While studies have cited multiple reasons for the limited youth participation in construction, available empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that central to these explanations is a policy environment that does not provide the required support in terms of remuneration, working conditions and career progression to make the construction sector attractive to youth. In recognition of this fact, the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment  (YIEDIE), a program designed to create economic opportunities for youth in the construction sector in five Ghanaian cities, implemented a number of interventions aimed at policy reform at both the national and city levels over the past four years. YIEDIE is part of the Youth Forward Initiative, which is focused on transitioning economically disadvantaged young people to find quality employment or start their own businesses in the growing agriculture and construction sectors in Ghana and Uganda.

This brief describes YIEDIE’s policy engagement avenues and strategies, the rationale for this set of interventions and the extent to which these interventions have created opportunities for young people within the construction sector. The brief is based on a survey, in-depth key informant interviews and focus group discussions with TVET partners in all the project cities, members of construction associations, master craftsmen, youth and staff in the local assemblies.