Rapid population growth has become a global concern especially in developing countries due to the lack of corresponding qualitative growth in the lives of people.
The 2014 State of the World Population Report by the UNFPA, discussed the enormous potential for economic growth and social development for countries with large populations, given that the right investments in human and social capital for youth development are made.
The results from the 2010 Population and Housing Census (PHC) show that the demographic characteristics of Ghana’s population are changing.Ghana’s population growth rate of 2.5 per cent in 2010 shows that the country’s population is growing rapidly and the youth group constitute the majority of the population.
The results also indicate that the age structure of the population is dominated by young people, with about 40 per cent under 15 years of age.
The old adolescent (15-19 years) and young adults (20-24 years) increased from 3.5 million in 2000 to 4.9 million in 2010. Similarly, the proportion of the population up to 35 years has been high and has accounted for more than two-thirds of the total population of Ghana recorded in each of the last three censuses: 69 per cent in 1984, 75.9 per cent in 2000 and 75.3per cent in 2010 (Ghana Statistical Service, 2013).
This has great potential for socio-economic growth when this youthful resource is harnessed effectively, it can result in actual energy for socio-economic change.Young people have substantial energy and resilience, and the power to induce change.
This is an opportunity that must be harnessed now for great gains.
This rapid growth has, however, implications for the development of the country. This population group represents a time bomb, risk or burden if neglected.
Experiences from the role of the youth in civil wars and political upheavals have taught us the lesson that when not educated, empowered and gainfully employed; young people can be used to wreak havoc.
Ghana faces a lot of socio-economic problems but the issue of unemployment especially among the youth of this country is hitting it all time high and leaving a lot of youth in a state of hopelessness and despondency.
While many of the youth have had access to secondary and tertiary education, the expanded access to education has not correspondingly given rise to job opportunities and job creation in the country.
This chronic graduate unemployment and general unemployment situation being experienced in Ghana is alarming.
The disturbing issue is that though this ‘social canker’ stares us in the face as a nation, the kind of actions, policies, programmes and urgency required to tame these problems has not been so effective.
The policy makers continue to disregard the fact that unemployment and for that matter graduate unemployment is frighteningly real and desperately needs to be addressed.
The government of Ghana cannot pretend to be unaware of this growing menace and sweep it under the carpet; the real threat for this country is not terrorism but rather unemployment.
Unemployment, poverty, and inequality are very real in Ghana and all these are grounds for crimes, social chaos, conflicts and instability.
The opportunity to participate in decision making process has been a major hurdle for most young people even though there have been recent calls on young people to actively participate in their country’s development since they constitute the majority of the world’s population.
Adults undeniably have more experience than their younger counterparts but the experience of the adult is gained through learning and participation so until young people are given the opportunity they will not get any experience.
It is through giving the youth opportunities to participate in leadership roles that they can learn and grow from their experiences.
Therefore, ensuring that young people are empowered and are able to live a purposeful life is a major step in their development.
Furthermore, young people should have correct information on sexual and reproductive health, for instance. They need to be protected from unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and sexually transmitted infections like HIV.
It is absolutely vital that young people have universal and unhindered access to sexual and reproductive information and services.
This is essential to ensure that they fulfil their potential and are able to contribute to the development of the country.
There is the need to recognise that the demographic dividend is no guarantee, and neither will it occur by itself.
It calls for investing in the most populous group of the country – the youthful population.
It also calls for putting the youth at the centre of development in order to ensure that their potential is fulfilled.
Also needed is the development of adequate policies that put youth issues such as education, skills development, youth entrepreneurship and employment at the centre of national development.
John Kisseih Tetteh