Lack of Employment Data  …another case of institutional failure and incompetence

Once again, the president of the republic has been unpardonably embarrassed by his employment minister in respect of his inability to provide credible employment statistics. In 2017 the president asked that he should be given eighteen months to be able to provide data on the jobs that government had created, since his government was a young one.

In 2018, the president asked again that he should be given three months to provide data on jobs his government has created – and said that such statistics are not readily available. This is very sad for two reasons: firstly, this is a government whose whole campaign message was premised on job-creation for the youth; and secondly, it is sad because as a nation we have not had any credible employment statistics since independence, and so this government has the best opportunity to institutionise a monthly employment data update – just as is done in any developed nation.

It is therefore very unthinkable that a government which promised jobs be unable to provide data on the jobs it has created. How do we know that, indeed, jobs have been created?

Clearly, this is not only a mark of incompetence and a complete failure on the part of the employment ministry, Ghana Statistical Service – and to some extent the Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) – but also shows our politicians’ clear disconnect and lack of understanding in regard to the relationship between employment data and economic development.

Any minister responsible for feeding the president with such vital information, will essentially occupy himself with the creation of credible employment and workforce composition data – not only as a political tool in fulfillment of his party’s campaign message, but as an important economic tool that will form the basis of our development as a nation. It even becomes a good legacy for the employment minister himself.

To start with, employment outcomes are among the most important variables used by every country to link the size and structure of its economic growth. Widely, it is agreed that transformation of our economy through the provision of jobs is the essence of economic development.

For several years, the progress of every economy has been measured in both output and employment spaces. However, data on employment-creation – which is an important element in the measurement of economic growth and development and is the basis of decision-making – is non-existent. Strangely enough, this is a government with a lot of economists who had their training and professional lives in developed countries where employment data is a monthly feature within their economic space.

These include the likes of Gyan Baffour, Akoto Osei, Isaac Osei, Alan Kyeremanteng, Mark Assibey Yeboah, Ken Ofori Atta, Boakye Agyarko, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Boniface Sadique and others. Sadly enough, a deputy finance minister tried to justify on Citi FM that government does not need data before it can take economic decisions. One wonders the basis upon which our leaders are making plans for the country.

The nation has seen a tremendous surge in economic provision in recent times. Indeed, Ghana boasts a number of employment initiatives that are putting up large-scale economic ventures. While successive governments have ensured the provision of employment-creation ventures for the people, the need for well-coordinated and consistent employment and workforce composition data – which is an important element in the measurement of economic growth and the basis of decision-making – is non-existent.

The harbour and railway development projects, the Planting for Food and Jobs, recruitment by GRA, Ghana police, Immigration Service, the nurses’ recruitment and a lot other projects and services have all provided some jobs over the past year. Couldn’t the minister have put together these numbers for the president, however unscientific it may be?

Notably, it is not only the physical projects of government which have the potential to create jobs; the introduction of some policies like stimulus packages, reduction of taxes and electricity tariff also have the potential to stimulate job-creation by the private sector. And so, “Any credible employment data should not be limited to only NPP manifesto created-jobs, but should rather be government-created jobs which will also include jobs by the private sector”.

In the midst of these economic developments has been the Employment Ministry and Ghana Statistical Service’s inability to undertake a comprehensive database on jobs created, and to provide periodic updates. Clearly, this is inimical to the progress of our country and does not provide the nation with enough bases for planning and development.

Our institutions of state continue to fail us miserably as a people, while GSS has been depending on donor funds for all its projects and the employment ministry has been one of the least-resourced. As for the Labour department – the least said about that the better. Regrettably, we continue to witness consistent failure and incompetence by our respective state institutions in every aspect of our national life.

Besides economic impact, the lack of data on employment comes to haunt and expose our politicians every election-year with their inability to provide evidenced-based statistics on the total number of jobs they created – which is also part of the overall poverty-reduction agenda.

Statistics on the employment situation in the economy when put together for a long period becomes useful for economic analysis, projections, manpower and development planning. They are also important for social analysis in the areas of poverty, social welfare, and in the analysis of seasonal patterns in employment creation.

The president in his response suggested we give him three months for them to collate the figures. How are they collating the figures? I can only caution the minister that whatever figure he churns out will subjected to critical scientific enquiry – which if care is not taken will be more embarrassing and humiliating than not having the figures at all. The era when politicians churned out figures from their head is over.

While this continuous embarrassment to the president is another clear case of state institutional failure, it also shows the emptiness in our professors at the Institute for Social, Statistical and Economic Research (ISSER). Has ISSER, as a major research institution in the country, ever designed a proposal on how to establish employment data and tried to seek funding from its donors or even government?

Has ISSER ever made a proposal to government on how to establish credible employment data in the country? Yet these professors at ISSER are always found at conferences and seminars speaking grammar and giving general recommendations with no action. The creation of employment data, which is purely a research activity, also falls within the space of ISSER as a major research institution.

Sadly, the actions and inactions of our professors and the managers of our economy sometimes compel us to question the usefulness of one having a formal education in our part of the world.

One common project the sector minister easily refers to in respect of employment data in all his discussions has been the Ghana Labour Market Information System (LMIS), which itself is being funded by the World Bank. This system was started by the late finance minister Kwadwo Baah Wiredu when he needed some employment figures for one of his trips to Geneva. In any case, the LMIS has its own flaws, which will be discussed in a subsequent publication.

I respectfully appeal that the employment minister initiate steps to provide the nation with credible employment data, and not to use lack of funding as an excuse. The ability to mobilise resources to undertake projects is a major attribute of every good leader. I also urge the professors in our institutions to make their education more beneficial to the nation by leading and professing innovative ways of solving national issues in clear cases of government’s inability to lead.

I have already proposed to the ministry that unlike the informal sector, where it is practically impossible to capture all petty traders in a district, it is very easy to capture all workers in the formal sector. I believe the ministry can start from the formal economy and provide us data on jobs in that sector.

Sadly, our underdevelopment is a reflection of the sum of our negative individual human attitudes, professional incompetence, timorous and vindictive nature at work; lack of thinking, innovation and proactiveness, irresponsibility of directors in our institutions; partisan politics, hypocrisy, untruthfulness, no commitment; penchant for  conferences and workshops, corruption and lack of leaders have all combined to produce such pervasive institutional failure not only at the employment ministry but across all sectors of our national life.

Mr. President, we are eagerly waiting for the data after the three-month period.

The writer is an entrepreneur and a former banker. Email: ykelvin19@yahoo.com