Ghana: Skilled Ghanaians increasing look to countries outside of Africa for work

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A migration profile of Ghana released today by IOM finds that a combination of a growing and increasingly educated Ghanaian labour force, a lack of employment opportunities for young people and the decline of Nigeria as a major destination for Ghanaians has led to increasing migration to countries outside of West Africa with worrying implications for key sectors.

The profile, the latest in a series to be released on 10 West African countries to help national governments devise and develop effective migration policy, found that although 71 per cent of Ghanaian migrants stay in West Africa, a growing number of Ghanaians are now to be found outside the region. Ghananian migrants can be found in 33 countries worldwide.

The United States and the United Kingdom are the two most important destination countries for Ghanaians outside of West Africa, with 7.3 per cent and 5.9 per cent of Ghanaian migrants in these two countries respectively.

The report found that skilled migration, especially to developed countries in the north, has been accelerating since 1990. Ghana has the highest emigration rates for highly skilled people in West Africa (46 per cent), exacerbating labour shortages in critical sectors such as health and education.

The medical profession is particularly affected. It is estimated that more than 56 per cent of doctors and 24 per cent of nurses trained in Ghana are now working abroad. In education, more than 60 per cent of faculty positions at polytechnics and 40 per cent at public universities are vacant.

A lack of career development and poor working conditions are the main drivers of skilled emigration and although the government has introduced measures to improve pay for health professionals, income differentials with western countries are too large to compete. One study in 2004 found that wage differentials between nurses in Ghana and counterparts in Canada and Australia were 14 times as much. For doctors, they were 25 times as much.

The IOM profile also found that with more young Ghanaians entering the labour market than before and with an annual increase of the labour force projected at 2.9 per cent over the next 15 years, the pressure to migrate may increase unless employment opportunities for the young improve.

With an increasingly educated population, skilled emigration will be remain a key policy concern for Ghana.

A positive impact of growing emigration is the dramatic increase in official remittance flows to Ghana. The Bank of Ghana estimates that remittances increased from US476 million in 1999 to US$ 1.9 billion in 2008. However, the economic crisis has taken its toll with the Bank reporting a 7.3 per cent decrease in remittances in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.

Nevertheless, the report recommends the need to create and maintain links with a diaspora estimated to range from anywhere between 1.5 million to 3 million Ghanaians in order to tap into their potential and to benefit from skills transfer, investment opportunities and remittances.

Other migration trends identified by the IOM profile, which is funded by the European Union, the Belgian Development Cooperation and the Swiss Federal Office for Migration, includes the growing incidence of return or circular migration. Of the more than 1.1 million Ghanaians who left the country between 2000-2007, only 153,000 did not return either temporarily or permanently.

And while emigration is increasing faster than immigration, Ghana nevertheless continues to be an important country of destination. Migrants from predominantly ECOWAS countries are attracted by its relative peace, security and political stability.

Source: International Office of Migration (IOM)

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