Five Things Young People in Ghana Want for Their Future

Do you remember yourself at age 15? For some of us, the teenage years were a long time ago. For others, it may be more recent. Regardless of how long it’s been, you may recall the aspirations you had for your future life.

The years of adolescence and early adulthood are strongly formative times for young people to envision their future, explore possibilities, and seek pathways forward in life. However, many young people lack opportunities, despite their hopes and dreams. Other young people limit their hopes given a lack of opportunities.

Recently, the Overseas Development Institute sought to better understand the aspirations of young people in Ghana as part of the Mastercard Foundation’s Youth Forward initiative. How did they form their aspirations? What did they want from their lives? Did they know how to turn their aspirations into reality? The results of this research, Aspiration matter:  what young people think about work, are highlighted in a powerful report that explores the complex ways in which young people both develop their own aspirations and work towards achieving them.

Below we highlight five things that young people in Ghana want for their future:

1. Young people want more opportunities.

Many young people reported spending more time looking for work than actually working. Meeting day-to-day obligations, both for themselves and their families, takes up much of their time and energy.

2. Young people want to focus on their long-term future.

Although young people are working hard to meet their day-to-day needs, they are aware of the need to think about long-term goals, such as having a family and savings to weather illness or injury. Despite this, many young people were unsure of how to balance the competing interests of attending to the needs of today with the goals of tomorrow. Most often, future plans were shelved due to pressing needs in the present.

3. Young people want dignified and fulfilling work.

In rural areas, young people looked to the agricultural livelihoods of their parents as examples. These are seen as respected employment pathways, for both women and men, though access to land is increasingly proving a problem for rural young people. In urban areas, pathways were less clear. Young people aspired to non-physical labour, especially women, who were discouraged by family and friends from pursuing manual labour. Many young people find themselves unable to access “white collar” jobs because they cannot afford the necessary education.

4. Young people want to contribute financially to their households.

Family obligations are central to young people’s aspirations and strategies. Meeting these obligations provides a sense of pride and purpose, even while young people would like more resources to invest in their own education and livelihoods.

5. Young people want to pursue self-employment.

In both rural and urban areas, many young people, especially women, expressed a preference for self-employment. Many women had experienced inappropriate behaviour from male supervisors and felt that self-employment was an opportunity to minimize risk of harm and maximize autonomy. Self-employment also often provides a more regular income than formal employment.

Listening to young people

Understanding the factors that influence and shape young people’s aspirations is critical to ensuring that the programs we design reflect their needs, hopes and desires. This is particularly timely, as the Foundation works towards its goal of helping 30 million young people secure dignified and fulfilling work.