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Key findings
  • Seven in 10 young Ghanaians (70%) have secondary or post-secondary education, far outstripping previous generations.
  • But youth (aged 18-35) are also more likely than their elders to be unemployed: 27% say they are not employed and are looking for jobs, compared to 20% of 36- to 55- year-olds.
  • Management of the economy and unemployment top the list of most important problems that Ghanaian youth want their government to address, followed by infrastructure/roads and education.
  • Fewer than four in 10 young Ghanaians say the government is doing a good job of addressing educational needs (39%), managing the economy (16%), and creating jobs (14%). Approval ratings on these issues have plummeted since 2017.
  • Like their elders, large majorities of youth say the country is going in “the wrong direction” (87%) and offer negative assessments of the nation’s economy (86%) and their personal living conditions (70%). Only one in four youth (24%) expect things to improve over the coming year.
  • Young citizens are less likely than their elders to engage in political and civic activities such as voting in elections, attending community meetings, joining with others to raise an issue, and contacting elected officials, though their contact with assembly members has been increasing in recent years.

Their sheer numbers have made youth the centrepiece of continental and national policy discussions (African Union Commission, 2022; Asiamah, Sambou, & Bhoojedhur, 2021). In Ghana, young people aged 15-35 constitute 38% of the population, while children under age 15 make up another 35% (Ghana Statistical Service, 2021).  

Like its predecessors, the current government has launched a variety of policies and programmes aimed at meeting youthful aspirations, ranging from free secondary school and vocational training to entrepreneurship promotion and job-matching programmes (see, for example, Youth Employment Agency, 2023).  

Still, unemployment, underemployment, and limited opportunities for skills development remain key challenges for Ghana’s youth (Dadzie, Fumey, & Namara, 2020). More than one fifth of 15- to 35-year-olds are not in education, employment, or actively involved in training (Ghana Statistical Service, 2022). The COVID-19 pandemic slowed economic growth, forced businesses to lay off workers, and weakened the capacity of government and the private sector to create employment opportunities for youth (World Bank, 2020). 

Youth advocates argue that meaningful participation by young people in governance processes is necessary for the development of effective policies and programmes that respond to the challenges facing today’s youth (Government of Ghana, 2022). But youth are often invisible in policy making (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 2017), even in the political manifestos that give rise to interventions targeting young people, and costs associated with election campaigns block most young people from entering political office.  

The Afrobarometer Round 9 survey (2022) offers some insights into the situation of Ghana’s youth. Findings show that young people are more educated than their elders, but also more likely to be unemployed. The economy and unemployment are topmost on the minds of young Ghanaians, who think their government is doing a poor job on job creation, economic management, and education. 

Most think the country is headed in “the wrong direction,” and few are optimistic that things will get better in the near future. Despite their dissatisfaction, young citizens are less likely than their elders to engage in political processes. 

Alfred Kwadzo Torsu

Alfred Torsu is a data analytics officer for Afrobarometer. He has a master’s in public policy analysis from Michigan State University.

Gildfred Boateng Asiamah

Gildfred Boateng Asiamah previously served as a research analyst at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).