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13.12.2005 Regional News

Unemployment and underemployment retard economic growth - Odoom

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Accra, Dec. 13, GNA - Mr Abraham Dwuma Odoom, a Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, on Tuesday noted that the continuous growth of unemployment and underemployment in urban centres in most developing countries were bringing new dimensions to poverty. "Increasingly, poverty is manifesting itself in our growing cities, resulting in urban poverty," he said at the opening of an international training workshop in Accra.

"Everyday, millions of job-seekers, men, women and youth gravitate to the urban informal economy, where they earn just enough to survive, without any form of social security for themselves or their families." The four-day workshop organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for countries in the West Africa Sub-Region is on the theme: "Putting Employment at the Centre of Public Investment and The Poverty Reduction Process." It seeks to place employment, intensive investment policies and programmes in the overall national development process.

Mr Odoom said it was an undeniable fact that employment was the first step out of poverty and an important stride towards greater social integration and cohesion and needed to be distributed equitably. "It is, therefore, imperative to devise the appropriate policies and interventions that can contribute significantly to promoting sustainable employment in our cities." The Deputy Minister said more than half of public investment in Ghana was in the construction sector yet this potential was either under-exploited or not realised because certain projects, which could be implemented effectively by applying labour-based techniques, continued to be equipment-intensive. This, he said, no doubt denied employment to the teeming population and thus stifled growth and development.

Mr Kwaku Osei-Bonsu, a Senior Technical Specialist based at the International Labour Office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said an employment intensive programme was one of the oldest ILO programmes aimed at poverty reduction through employment generation in infrastructure investment. "It is common knowledge that the most productive way of assisting the unemployed and the working poor is by creating opportunities for those people to earn a living wage," he said.

Mr Osei-Bonsu said the workshop intended to create awareness among decision and policy makers to optimise the use of locally available human and material resources in the implementation of rural and urban infrastructure works. It is also to analyse challenges that would contribute to the mainstreaming of the local resource based approaches. He, therefore, urged participants to critically examine why the African Continent had failed to realise the full potential of employment creation in infrastructure works and how they could overcome the bias by decision makers. "We must also consider how we can bring employment infrastructure works into the mainstream of infrastructure development through changes in legislation, government policies and procurement systems," he said.

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