Dr Leticia Appiah, the Executive Director, National Population Council, says teenage pregnancy is the main cause of Ghana’s youth unemployment and called for a holistic approach to address it.
Dr Appiah stated that anything that supported population growth was linked to unemployment because teenagers gave birth to children who were getting into education while others drop out of school due to financial constraint, thereby increasing the unemployment rate.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra, the Executive Director she said there was a correlation between fertility levels and future opportunities for young people, stressing that “high population growth rate will definitely outstripped our ability to provide for adequate health, education, and meaningful employment”.
Ghana Health Service 2020 report on teenage pregnancies shows that 2,865 girls got pregnant between the ages of 10 and 14 years while 107,023 girls got pregnant between 15 and 19 years.
The report also shows that nearly 301 girls are impregnated every day and 13 teenage pregnancies are recorded every one hour.
The high rate of teenage pregnancy called for urgent action, she said and appealed to religious bodies to devote part of their platform to educate their people against teenage pregnancies, which had become rampant in the country.
According to her, the number of births in Nigeria was more than that of United States because of the fertility levels in Nigeria.
“If you are linking fertility to future employment opportunities, then it goes without saying that Nigeria annually should be looking for employment than the US, and that is not possible, that is why Africa has unemployment issue and it would persist until we look at the root cause that it is the fertility”.
Touching on innovative ways to address the situation, Dr Appiah called on authorities to incentivize and appreciate a community whose teenage pregnancy rate was low and name and shame those whose rate are high.
“They need to intensify education on family planning methods and the need for teenagers to abstain from sex, be faithful to their partners and the use of condom to curb the rate of teenage pregnancies,” she said.
The Executive Director urged parents to play their role effectively in educating their children to abstain from pre-marital sex, because teenage pregnancy supported the transmission of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
“Africa annually adds on to the population of UK over 60 million which are mainly children, so how are we going to adequately take care of them in terms of education, health and employment, especially in the age where a lot of automation is going on,” she added.
Dr Appiah said it was imperative for the country to identify what was increasing the maternal mortality, the healthcare bills, the educational bills and security discomfort and develop innovative ways to confront the situation.
On security, the Executive Director said an unengaged youth was a recipe for national threat, because they were likely to fall prey to social vices, adding that there were so many security issues in the Sahel because of its unengaged youthful population.
“We need to harness the energies of our youth for them to be productive. Youth unemployment is a security threat but employment is a condition for prosperity, community stability and national development”.