Youth Participation in Youth Programmes: The Case of Ghana's National Youth Employment Programme
Gyampo, Ransford, Journal of Pan African Studies
Introduction and Problem Statement
It has been estimated that youth unemployment has risen from 14.8% in 1992 to 16.4% in 2000 and came close to 29% in 2009 (ISSER, 2010). While several development policies have been formulated by the National Development Planning Commission, these have not yielded sufficient employment opportunities, a situation which has disproportionately affected the youth. Though about 250,000 young people enter the labour market annually, the formal sector is able to engage only 2% leaving 98% to strive to survive in the informal sector or remain unemployed (ibid: 189). Indeed, the youth are about 3.5 times more likely to be unemployed than adults, suggesting that they have substantial difficulty in the labour market (ibid: 187). It is therefore evident that there is a need for a holistic and sustainable youth employment programme, not only to help youth find meaningful work and a secure their future, but also to help avert the negative security implications youth joblessness could have on a country's peace, development and democratic dispensation (Amoo, 2011).
The essence of governance and representative democracy is for elected leaders to formulate and implement appropriate policies on behalf of the people to deal with the quagmires of poverty and under-development among them. In doing this, sometimes it becomes necessary to consult the people, especially, the particular group that a policy is targeted at, to ensure that first-hand and adequate information is gathered to facilitate the design and implementation of appropriate policies to deal with that group's problems. In many developed countries, several programmes have been put in place to tackle the employment needs of their youth. In the USA for example youth employment programmes including Jobs for America's Graduates, Youth-Build USA, and Job Corps have been formulated and implemented to deal with unemployment among different segments of their youth (Collura, 2010). Similarly, in Ghana, the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) is seen as a major programme initiated in 2006 by the administration of President J.A. Kufuor to deal with unemployment among the youth who according to the nation's 2000 Population and Housing Census constitute about 60% of the population of about 20 million. However, the programme has proven to be woefully inadequate in sustainably dealing with the huge problems of unemployment among Ghana's youth due to the serious setbacks it suffers. By the end of 2011, the NYEP had offered jobs to only about 108,000 Ghanaians (Attipoe-Fitz, 2010). But this can be described as a drop in an ocean considering the fact that this is statistically negligible and the programme does not address the specific interest of the youth to secure good and sustainable jobs for a sound future (Donkoh, 2010). Indeed, for the first time in the history of Ghana, the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana was launched in 2011 to protest about the alarming rate of youth unemployment among all segments of the youth in Ghana in spite of the existence and full operation of the NYEP.
How such important programmes like the NYEP are formulated is crucial in ensuring that they benefit those they were meant for. In this regard, it is significant to note that in formulating the youth employment programmes in the USA for instance, the youth were consulted and they actively participated in the process, particularly at the community level (Collura, 2010).
Indeed, the 1991 and 2001 Reports of the US Department of Labour clearly documents how different youth groups participated in the formulation and implementation of employment programmes meant for them in a manner that made those programmes relevant in effectively dealing with their joblessness. On the contrary, the situation is different in Ghana. The NYEP, a programme intended to benefit the youth is an elite-prescribed programme and has no room for the youth even in its implementation. If the youth had been part of its formulation and implementation, they would have made input and ventilated their peculiar challenges relating to unemployment and how the programme could advance their long term interest.
Studies of existing youth employment programmes show that they make less of a short-term impact but a few, particularly in the developed world have much more impact over the long term (Jekielek, Cochran, & Hair, 2002; O'Sullivan, 2000; Clymer, Edwards, &Wyckoff, 2002; Sum & Khatiwada, 2006; Small and Memmo, 2004; Cross, 2004; and Schochet, Burghardt,& McConnel, 2008). In general, youth employment programmes should emphasize long-term goals such as keeping a young person employed and advancing in the workforce (Attipoe-Fitz, 2010). Although youth in job training and employment programmes benefits from the immediacy of a paycheck, the long term benefits of excellent programmes can secure better jobs with higher salaries, benefits, and opportunities for advancement (Collura, 2010). This is the direct interest and aspiration of every young person that can effectively be championed by the youth themselves when they are made part of the process of formulating and implementing programmes meant for them (ibid).
This paper therefore takes an overview of the NYEP. It highlights how it was formulated and is being implemented with particular emphasis on the role of the youth, if any, in the processes. It explains the reasons for the particular role of the youth in the NYEP process and discusses the achievements and challenges of the programme. The paper concludes on the note that youth participation in the "NYEP process" could have strengthened the programme in effectively dealing with youth unemployment and averted the current situation where its challenges far outweighs its gains and threatens its viability and sustainability.
The concept of participation underpins this study. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948) emphasized participation by all segments of society in decision making as a matter of right. Scaff (1975) defines participation from two distinct angles. Briefly, one angle emphasizes the idea of sharing in common life and acting on the basis of reciprocity in order to promote the "public good". The other angle looks at participation as an act of exchange, as an instrumental means for gaining power in order to increase the probability of realizing private benefits (ibid:449). Drah (2003) however emphasizes 'participatory development', as being the engagement of the greatest number of citizens in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development programmes and projects in order to uplift their standards. Such programmes and projects are desirably community based.
According to the Karol Wojtyla's theory of participation, '...the term participation points to the ability of the …
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Publication information: Article title: Youth Participation in Youth Programmes: The Case of Ghana's National Youth Employment Programme. Contributors: Gyampo, Ransford - Author. Journal title: Journal of Pan African Studies. Volume: 5. Issue: 5 Publication date: June 30, 2012. Page number: 13+. © 2008 Journal of Pan African Studies. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
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