Aspirations matter: what young people in Ghana think about work

Research reports and studies
August 2018
Ethel Seiwaa Boateng and Alexandra Löwe
Young women in Ghana draw a picture of how they would like to live in the future. Photo: Alexandra Löwe/ODI, 2017.

Aspirations play a vital role in shaping young people’s life choices, particularly when it comes to making decisions about education and jobs. However, youth employment programmes – which seek to provide young people with the skills and opportunities needed to secure employment and achieve higher living standards – rarely take young people’s aspirations into account.

This research published by the Youth Forward Learning Partnership explores the aspirations of young people in rural and urban Ghana, to understand their aspirations and how they are formed, and what this means for youth employment programming and policy.

Constructing Futures

Complementing this research is the Constructing Futures project, a youth-focused participatory photography project exploring the aspirations of young people working in Ghana's construction sector.

Constructing Futures involved training 10 young Ghanaians in documentary photography so that they could use photos to share their personal experiences of learning a trade in construction. The photos and accompanying case studies and digital stories provide an insight into their motivations for joining the sector, the challenges they have faced accessing training and during work, and their hopes for the future. 

A selection of photographs taken by the participants can be found on ODI's Flickr gallery. Narrated photo stories for five of the participants can be found on ODI's YouTube channel and case studies for four of the participants can be found below. Both the research and Constructing Futures outputs will inform the design and implementation of policies and programmes that affect the livelihoods of young Ghanaians.

Constructing Futures was carried out in collaboration with PhotoVoice, a UK-based organisation that specialises in participatory photography projects for social change. Participants were selected from YIEDIE, a five-year project implemented by Global Communities in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and part of the Youth Forward Initiative, that seeks to create economic opportunities for disadvantaged youth in Ghana's construction sector.