Employment creation potential, labor skills requirements, and skill gaps for young people: Ghana case study

Waitress and an African open-air bar with coconuts and beer. Travel and vacation in West Africa. Aqua Safari Resort. Ghana, Volta, Ada - January 14, 2017


The issues of jobless growth and the poor performance of manufacturing have become major concerns in Africa. A new growth trajectory has emerged in the region with services as the driver of growth, contrary to the expectations of manufacturing export-led transformation with the capacity to absorb low- to medium-skilled workers as previously observed in East Asia and other newly industrialized countries. It has become imperative for African countries, such as Ghana, to redirect attention toward identifying and supporting sectors with more significant employment potentials, in the quest to provide decent employment for a rapidly growing population, especially the youth. Indeed, the challenge of jobless growth in Ghana has brought to fore the need to diversify the economy away from mineral dependence through industrial transformation, mindful of the new technological developments. In this report, “industries without smokestacks” (IWOSS) the Ghana case study identified agro-processing and tourism as two of the sectors that could be relied on to potentially address the country’s jobless growth issue and enhance the competitiveness and productivity of small and medium-sized firms.

The report has demonstrated that both the agro-processing and tourism sectors have several characteristics that make them unique to the situation of Ghana:

  1. There is an improved regulatory environment for both sectors, and this is supported by various public policies to improve related infrastructure and unearth the potential in the two sectors.
  2. Both sectors offer critical employment avenues for the youth with at least secondary education, and this pool can be found among the relatively large unemployed individuals.
  3. Both sectors have a huge export capacity, and this is critical in enhancing competition.
  4. The technologies used in both sectors are labor intensive, and this has prospect in addressing the country’s unemployment challenge.
  5. There has been some effort to address various constraints in the value chains of both sectors.

Projecting into the future, we find agro-processing and tourism (hotels and restaurants) will experience a much higher annual employment growth than manufacturing and other non-IWOSS sectors by 2035. Although skill transformation of the workforce will mainly take place in non-IWOSS sectors, our projections to 2035 suggest that the IWOSS sectors in Ghana would generate more high-skilled jobs in an economy that will continue to be dominated by low-skilled workers.

Overall, constraints identified in agro-processing and tourism subsectors include the lack of adequately skilled labor, lack of access to credit facilities, inadequate infrastructure, cost of electricity, limited capacity to export, and restrictive/cumbersome regulatory environment. Specific constraints identified in the limited survey conducted on selected firms within the IWOSS sector highlight the lack of skills that are critical to the operations of IWOSS sectors (agro-processing and tourism) with the specific skills being systems skills, technical skills, and problem-solving skills. Based on this, it is recommended that a deliberate effort is made to address these various challenges to enhance the potential of the two sectors.

Download the full working paper