A PROFESSOR of Population at the Regional Institute of Population Studies (RIPS) at the University of Ghana, Legon, Stephen Kwankye, has called for the harnessing of the country’s youthful population into productive labour force for economic boom, so that it will not turn into a bomb.
He said the youth bulge could be an asset or threat to Ghana’s democracy depending on how it was integrated into decision-making process in the country.
Prof Kwankye made the observation in a paper he presented on Monday at the sidelines of the five-day 7th Africa Population Conference, ongoing here in Pretoria, South Africa.
The conference referred to as the largest scientific gathering of population scientists and development experts, with 600 participants in attendance, was being held against the backdrop of the growing youthfulness of African population, which population experts say offered unique opportunity for sustainable development of the continent, given the right policy environment.
Prof. Kwankye expressed the need to restructure Ghana’s educational system to equip the youth with skills, suitable for the job market, to be able to get full employment.
Drawing conclusions from data generated from a collaborative research, Prof. Kwankye said the country was going through a demographic transition from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates that “already shows clearly the demographic dividend has begun.”
He noted that there had been an increase in the age cohort of 15-65, referred to as the labour force, from 49 per cent in 1970s to 57 per cent, while the dependent cohort of 14-24 had reduced from 46.9 per cent in the 1970s to 38.3 per cent.
Prof Kwankye opined that the dividend was not automatically guaranteed, saying “we need to strategically plan and invest in human capital for accelerated economic growth to reap the dividend.”
He cited the case of the Asia Tigers of South Korea, Malaysia, China and others that had positioned themselves and now reaping the dividend brought about by the youth bulge.
Prof Kwankye noted that fertility rate in the country had “plateau” and there was the need to reduce it through increased contraceptive use, which was low in the country with women having “unmet need” of modern contraceptive use.
“There is the need to hasten the demographic transition through further sustained decline in fertility rate,” he said.
Prof Kwankye said though there had been increase in employment in the country “it is not the type of employment that will make us reap the dividend”.
From Salifu Abdul-Rahaman, Pretoria