When Graduates in Ghana Apply for Gh¢350 (100 USD) Jobs...
An African proverb says that "if you see a toad coming out in the day, then something must be pursuing it". In the same vein, can we suggest that if you see "normal" graduates in Ghana applying for jobs generally reserved for high school leavers, then something must really be pushing them?
Over 4 years now, I've been running one of the job websites in Ghana [http://jobhouseghana.com/] cum recruitment agency. My business model is pretty straightforward; I allow third parties to post their job vacancies on my website for job seekers to apply directly or companies contact us to shortlist and recruit for them. We normally source our candidates from our online database but in some cases, we open the vacancy to the general public to apply.
At first, things seem to be normal by Ghana standards in terms of remuneration for a number of vacancies we are contracted to fill. But towards the end of 2012, a trend began to emerge; more and more graduates started applying for lesser jobs. At the same time, the number of vacancies per week began to decrease with decreasing salaries. But I didn't really bother about the issue because Ghana's economy has been contracting for a couple of years.
But in 2014, I got a rude awakening whilst screening CVs as usual for one of the lesser vacancies we were contracted to fill. It was for an Administrative Assistant job and the educational qualification was High School. The salary was Gh¢350 (100 USD) per month. On that fateful day, one of the CVs was that of a very good friend during my undergraduate studies at University of Ghana, Legon (Ghana's most prestigious university). When I saw the name first, it caught my attention but I quickly convinced myself that it was just coincidence. Then I paid close attention to the details of the CV and tears began to roll down my cheeks. For now it was clear, it was her. It was this very lady who used to be very meticulous and offered me lecture notes to photocopy towards the end of each semester.
Questions started racing through my head. No! Maybe she's not the one. If she's the one, then how come? What happened to her degree? Why was she not working after completing school in 2011? Out of curiosity, I contacted one of our former colleagues and sent him a copy of the CV to confirm. The verdict was the same. At this point, I was really shaking. It was a very humbling experience for me.
As if that was not enough, we were recruiting drivers for a distribution company. This time too, the salary was Ghc350 (100 USD) per month. To my utter dismay, a number of graduates (both university and polytechnic) put in their applications. Now, I needed to get some answers as to why more and more graduates apply for Ghc350 jobs?
But the answer is not far-fetched. Opportunities for graduates are simply non-existent in today's Ghana. While tertiary institutions continue to churn out tens of thousands of graduates each year, poor economic management practically forced the government to place an embargo on public sector employment since 2013. At the same time, poor investment decisions on the part of the state led to some private individuals squandering huge sums of public funds under the guise of PPPs (Public Private Partnerships). The result is that, Ghana graduates are left with very few opportunities. Private-Public sponsored projects that were supposed to generate employment never materialized. In the stead, funds were diverted into private pockets. Then some of these beneficiaries turn round to say "Ghana graduates are unemployable".
Controversial but Practical Ways of Solving the Graduate Unemployment Problem in Ghana:
Scrap National Service Scheme and use monies saved to set up Graduate Entrepreneurial Fund
Since the 1970s when the military junta instituted the National Service Scheme (a one-year mandatory service to the state after tertiary education), successive governments have faithfully ensured the implementation of this scheme. Graduating students are posted to many government institutions with very very little work to do. In most cases, there is nothing to be done. Yet government pays allowance of Gh¢350 (100 USD) per month. About hundred thousand enroll for National Service each year and that translates into 35 million cedis or 10 million USD per month. The service period is usually 11 months and when you work is out, you get 385 million cedis per year. This amount, if invested into the Graduate Entrepreneurial Fund, in my opinion could CURE the graduate unemployment in Ghana.
Another big advantage of scrapping the National Service is that, it will prevent the gross abuse by some large private organizations who rely yearly on National Service Personnel as entry-level staff. These companies pay just 20% of the National Service allowance to government. Then they pay just the same allowance amount to the candidates. This helps them save hundreds of thousands on "cheap" labour. Abolishing the scheme will mean that, these companies will have to pay market prices to the graduates at the same time reducing the graduate unemployment levels. Remember these companies will now have to employ the graduates full time rather than just using each batch of National Service Personnel.
Enforce the Rent Control Laws (Not more than 3 Months' Advance Payment)
I know some of you will be thinking... "He mixed this one up". Well, just read on. There was a time in Ghana (I understand during Nkruma's presidency) when it was truly illegal for any landlord to take or demand more than three months' advance payment from a prospective tenant. But over the years, this all-important law has not been repealed but just ignored totally. It is now fashionable for people to borrow huge sums of monies (they don't even have) to construct huge buildings which lie half empty for the first ten years because the rates are just wickedly high. In the end, much needed capital (which could have been kept in the bank) is locked up in huge, empty buildings.
Just enforcing this aspect of the rent control law will correct a lot of things and create employment for graduates. Let me tell you how... First, more money will be in the banks rather than sunk into empty buildings. This will mean that graduates could get venture capital or funding for their business plans. Closely related is that, the cost of credit in general could be much lower. Secondly, implementing this law could lead to more real estate companies springing up to provide really low-cost property. This will lead to more employment opportunities. Finally, fresh graduates with business ideas who want to setup an office will have it much more easier. Office space is one of the leading factors that collapses many businesses in Ghana before they even start. Most of the landlords demand 5 to 10 YEARS advance payment. So the question is, wouldn't you rather use that 5-10 years' advance payment to import from China and sell in Ghana?
Conclusion: There are many ways to kill a cat and I don't suppose I know all the ways of solving the perennial graduate unemployment problem in Ghana. But I choose to be more practical here. You may agree with me or disagree.
Useful Links: Submit Your CV Online in Ghana [http://resume.jobhouseghana.com/wp-login.php?action=register], Recruitment Agencies in Ghana http://jobhouseghana.com/recruitment]