Is the freeze on employment not worsening the precarious graduate unemployment situation in Ghana?

The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori- Atta, on Thursday, November 24, 2022, presented the 2023 Budget and Economic Policy of the Government to Parliament, indicating far-reaching measures towards expenditure rationalisation to salvage the current economic downturn in the country that has resulted in severe hardships among the populace. Among these measures, is the announcement of a freeze on employment for civil and public servants, effective January, 2023.


The Minister announced also that the purchase of new vehicles shall be restricted to locally assembled vehicles while the allocation of fuel coupons to political appointees and Heads of Minis­tries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and State-Owned Enterprises


These were the words from the Minister; “Mr. Speaker, as a first step towards expenditure rationalisation, the Government has approved the following directives which take effect from January 2023. All MDAs MMDAs and SOEs, are directed to reduce fuel allocations to Political Appointees and Heads of MDAs, MMDAs and SOEs by 50 per cent. This directive applies to all methods of fuel allocation, including coupons, electronic cards, chit sys­tem and fuel depots. Accordingly, 50 per cent of the previous year’s (2022) budget allocation for fuel, shall be ear­marked for official business pertaining to MDAs, MMDAs and SOEs;


“A ban on the use of V8s/V6s or its equivalent, except for cross-country travel. All government vehicles would be registered with GV green plates from January 2023; Limited budgetary allocation for the purchase of vehicles. For the avoidance of doubt, the pur­chase of new vehicles shall be restrict­ed to locally assembled vehicles; Only essential foreign travel across govern­ment, including SOEs shall be allowed for board members. Accordingly, all government institutions should sub­mit a travel plan for the year 2023 by mid-December of all expected travels to the Chief of Staff.

“As far as possible, meetings and workshops should be done within the official environment or government facilities; Government sponsored ex­ternal training and Staff Development activities at the Office of the President, Ministries and SOEs, must be put on hold for 2023 financial year. Reduc­tion of expenditure on appointments including salary freezes together with suspension of certain allowances like housing, utilities and clothing, etc. A freeze on new tax waivers for foreign companies and review of tax exemptions for free zone, mining, oil and gas compa­nies. A hiring freeze for civil and public servants. No new government agencies shall be established in 2023. There shall be no hampers for 2022”.



Indeed, some of these measures, are already in place, however, for the gov­ernment to muster the necessary cour­age to ensure that they are enforced to the letter, has been the major problem. It is the hope of many Ghanaians that this time round, the government will put the necessary mechanism in place to ensure an effective monitoring of the process and the implementation of the additional policies and programmes. Already, many are of the firm belief that these are some of the conditions attached to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offer, to bail the country out of the current economic mess.


While the majority of Ghanaians do sympathise with the government for the situation it finds itself in now and, there­fore, has to succumb to some of these pressures from the IMF for the needed financial bailout, many are also of the view that the freeze on employment within the civil and public services, is a serious development which the govern­ment has to take a second look at the policy, since it will not serve the best interest of this nation whatsoever. When this policy is allowed to be implemented as it stands next year, certain critical and vital areas such as the health and education sectors of the economy, will suffer unduly. Already our health facil­ities across the country are challenged with shortage of professionals such as doctors, dentists, nurses, cardiologists, laboratory technicians, radiographers and X’ray technicians among others, while our universities, colleges, poly­technics, Junior and Senior High Schools lacked the required manpower to man­age that sectors. The government flag­ship Agenda 111 Hospital project is likely to face a major setback as a result of the freeze on employment. The new district hospitals, currently under construction will face manpower problem. Placing a total ban on employment for the next two years, will deal a major blow to our dear country.


We are in a country where graduate unemployment has been a major head­ache to the extent that today, Ghana has in existence, Unemployed Univer­sity Graduate Association (UUGA). The National Labour Commission estimates a staggering unemployment figure of 700,000. Roughly, 53 per cent of recent graduates are either unem­ployed or underemployed. The average university graduate, needs up to half a year to find their initial employment if any. According to the 2021 Population and Housing Census by the Ghana Sta­tistical Service, more than 13 per cent of Ghana’s economically active popula­tion are out of work.

When graduates find themselves unemployed, poor, psychological, physical and emotional health and well-being may follow. This impacts on the motivation and drive to active­ly seek employment, which in turn lessens the probability of unemployed graduates securing employment in the labour market. The underlying causes of youth employment in Ghana, in­clude inadequate job creation despite relative good economic growth, poor access to, and quality of education and a mismatch in skills appropriate to the labour demands. In order to promote youth employment in Ghana, it is important to align formal education programmes and skills development ini­tiatives in the context of fast changing labour market that requires new and different skill sets and to adapt to new technology.


As we speak now, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the umbrella body of workers in Ghana, is vehemently, opposing the government’s decision to place a moratorium on employment in the civil and public services in 2023. Its Deputy General Secretary, Joshua Ansah, said the group was not in favour of a freeze on employment in the services and took steps to prevent it by engaging the IMF team which came into the country. According to him, the TUC was disappointed in the government for the move, describing it as “a stab in the back because government promised not to do so”. He assured that the TUC would discuss the issue with its social partners and respond appropriately.

Many have suggested that in order to cut down government expenditure and save cost, the government should take immediate steps to downsize its ministers and other political appoin­tees, re-align some of the ministries to take other responsibilities since there are a lot of duplications in the func­tions of some of the ministries. Expen­ditures on some of these ministries can be channelled into productive areas of the economy. There are a lot of wastes in public expenditure which need to be curtailed in order to conserve the needed revenue to prosecute our de­velopment agenda.


Placing a moratorium on employment by freezing employment in civil and pub­lic services cannot in itself be the pana­cea for our present economic challenges. The ghost names in the public sector payrolls must be completely eradicated to introduce sanity into the system. The extravagance and opulent lifestyles of some of our ministers and other office holders need to be checked as we find solutions to our hydra-headed chal­lenges.Yes, government has introduced far-reaching measures to cut down public expenditure as requested by the IMF, but the leadership must lead by example by reducing the present size of government and refrain from unnecessary expendi­tures at the presidency. For instance, the tendency of conveying a special Presiden­tial Chair to and fro by V8 vehicle to state function across the country by the Office of the President must cease forthwith. Besides, the large convoy of state vehi­cles that always follows the President to public functions both internally and externally must be stopped to save the needed revenue.


It is quite obvious that our policymak­ers and for that matter the government and its political appointees, are only in­terested in churning out a large chunk of graduates yearly from our various univer­sities and other tertiary institutions, just for cheap political propaganda. How these graduates will manage to secure the needed jobs or employment is not their priority or business at all. If really, they care for these graduates, they would not have accepted this bitter pill from the IMF of putting a freeze on employment.

Contact email/WhatsApp of author: 0277753946/0248933366

By Charles Neequaye

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