The debate of demographic dividend and how a country can reap from it has been a long standing debate with several relevant angles. The earlier debate of demographic dividend placed emphasis on population size (Crespo Cuaresma et al., 2014), however there has been a shift from concentration on population size to the concentration of the population composition. Thus there has been a shift from what the population is to what the population is made of. According to the World Economic Forum, (2010) “demographic dividend is the economic payoff that can occur when there are relatively large numbers of people of working age”. Crespo Cuaresma et al., (2014) defines demographic dividend as the beneficial effect of changes in age structure after a decrease in fertility. As opined by Crespo Cuaresma et al., (2014) demographic dividend of a population is rooted in the improvement it makes in its fertility reduction. When fertility is reduced, child dependents are reduced with time while the eligible working class increases. Africa’s improvement in fertility matters and its growing young population makes it a good candidate to reap the benefits of the demographic dividends.
However, this write up concentrates on the prospects of Ghana’s demographic dividend and discuss some policy options that can help Ghana reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.
The population reference bureau in August 2021 published their world population data sheet.
Ghana’s population is estimated to be around 32.4 million people. From this population 38% are below age 15 and 4% are above age 65. This means that 58% of the Ghanaian population are between the ages of 15-64. This is a population that has majority of its population being eligible to work. Also, this is a good opportunity for Ghana to tap into this population prospects to reap the benefits thereof. With Ghana’s fertility rate being the second lowest at 3.9 in West Africa (Population Reference Bureau, 2021) and with a projection of Ghana’s population to be 55.4million in 2050, ceteris paribus Ghana would still enjoy minimal child dependency as compared to working population in the projection which is a good prospect for demographic dividend. However, for Ghana to be able to reap the demographic dividends of the population composition of Ghana there must be deliberate policies targeted for such.
One of the foremost policy options that Ghana can explore is to pursue an educational and empowerment policy. Demographic dividend cannot be reaped when the population are not educated. Education enhances the value and the quality of people in the population so as to benefit from such values and quality. What education does to the population is that it gives them skills which they can use to improve their wellbeing as individuals of which the aggregate become a dividend for the country as a whole (Crespo Cuaresma et al., 2014). For example, Cuba and Pakistan have done well to educate their population in medicine and ICT to the extent that they export them to other countries to make economic gains. So if Ghana wants to reap the benefit of its demographic characteristics then deliberate attempts must be made to educate the population so that they gain skills. This education should not only be focused on with grammar education but also technical and vocational education (World Economic Forum, 2010). When people are skilled in a population the productivity is likely to increase and this can lead to economic drive in the country (Rentería et al., 2016). Educated people would be in a better standing to take up new technologies in doing their work and that is a great way to improve production in their various spheres. The education policy should be one that pays particular attention to women education. Women in Ghana have been historically sidelined when it comes to education and its benefit thereof. As the center piece of fertility issues that affects demographic changes in the country when they are educated it does not just delay their years for reproduction but also gives them the knowledge to make better reproductive decisions. They again, have the needed skills to contribute their quota to the economic development of the country. Demographic dividends cannot be reaped when people do not have the freedom and liberty to express their skills hence empowerment should embody the freedoms and rights for the citizenry (World Economic Forum, 2010).
Secondly, for Ghana to be able to reap the demographic dividend opportunity laid before it currently and the future then there must be a deliberate policy to improve healthcare. There is no benefit from a population that is not healthy. The country needs healthy people to work in order to improve the economic situation in the country but this would not be possible when they are not healthy. Therefore the country must invest in healthcare in order to meet the health needs of the people and if possible export healthcare. This investment in healthcare can be in the form of infrastructure and personnel. When there are proper health care systems in place mortality is reduced hence the country can do proper projections with the assurance that children would survive to the adult working age to contribute to the economy. The life expectancy would also increase hence people can complete their active years working and contribute to the economy much longer. All the countries that have harnessed the potential its population offers could not have done that without any proper health care systems.
To add to, for Ghana to be able to reap the opportunities that the population offers then there must be a deliberate policy pathway that would harness the skills and education of the population. This can be done by creating employment avenues for the teaming population who fall within the working age of the country. There is no benefit of having a population with potential without putting the potential to use, Ghana has most of the opportunities in the agrarian sector hence efforts must be made to make that sector attractive for those seeking jobs while creating other avenues that can utilize the skills and education of the population. The planting for food and jobs and one district one factory policy when implemented well could be a good starting point. According to (African Union, 2017) when people are employed or are into entrepreneurship they tend to pay taxes to the state. These taxes become a source of revenue to the government to undertake various development projects that can improve the economy. Also when people are employed they earn a salary since they have purchasing power hence people are able to buy the things they need. As long as people buy, businesses would flourish (entrepreneurship) and they would be enough money to go round. The ripple effect of these on the families of the people who are employed and are in entrepreneurship is something worth noting. Also, when people are educated and skilled there is a high possibility of having better wages. Higher wages means people can be economically empowered and when this is in large proportions the economy would do better.
In conclusion, it must be reiterated that having a population composition that majority falls within the working class does not guarantee dividends it would take proper policy measures like skilled education, proper health systems and job creating that are properly implemented to reap the demographic dividends.
African Union. (2017). AU Roadmap Harnessing Demographic Investments. In A (Vol. 601, Issue Dec). https://addis.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/AU 2017 DD ROADMAP Final - EN_2.pdf
Crespo Cuaresma, J., Lutz, W., & Sanderson, W. (2014). Is the Demographic Dividend an
Education Dividend? Demography, 51(1), 299–315. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-0130245-x
Population Reference Bureau. (2021). Special Focus on Global Fertility WORLD POPULATION GLOBAL TOTAL FERTILITY RATE % OF ALL BIRTHS GLOBALLY TO MOTHERS AGES
Rentería, E., Souto, G., Mejía-Guevara, I., & Patxot, C. (2016). The Effect of Education on the
Demographic Dividend. In Population and Development Review (Vol. 42, Issue 4, pp. 651– 671). https://doi.org/10.1111/padr.12017
World Economic Forum. (2010). A 3E Policy Framework to Reap the Demographic Dividend : Empower , Educate , Employ.