With an estimated GDP growth of 13.5% for 2011 economists predict an optimistic future for Ghana with the World Bank recently classifying it as low-middle-income. But well over a quarter of the population still lives in poverty, especially in rural and coastal areas.
Young people in rural Ghana face acute unemployment problems. Rural youth account for about 35% of all unemployment because economic activity/ development is scarce outside towns and because they have no technical skills or access to training. Only 5% of rural young people have ever had vocational training, compared with 21% of those in towns.
Tourism is seen as the ‘new gold’ that drives job creation, development and economic growth. It is expected to become the single largest employer by 2015, accounting for around 10% of the national workforce and creating about 50,000 direct jobs and a substantial number of indirect jobs. The industry also fuels growth in other sectors such as construction, agriculture, handicrafts and services, creating substantial demand for informal labour.
But can such high demand for workers be met? In reality growth is threatened by the shortage and quality of hospitality workers. If the need for 10,500 receptionists, housekeeping and restaurant staff is to be fulfilled by 2015 about 2,500 people will need to be trained annually in tourism management and hospitality skills to fill the positions. A higher quality of service is likely to attract more visitors and lead to greater economic growth.
The sector employs many unskilled and semi-skilled workers on an informal basis in hotels, restaurants, handicraft shops and local transport and tour operators. Many are involved in producing vegetables for small hotels, selling cooked food to tourists and increasingly in home stay operations. Such workers are paid little and have no job security or workers’ rights. Given the opportunity to develop their skills these most disadvantaged workers can move beyond insecurity and into more stable, higher paid employment.