The productive capacity of a country is directly linked with the size of its productive workforce. The legal working age in Ghana is 15 years.
The bulk (71.2%) of the economically active population in the region are employed in Agriculture. Only 5.7 per cent of the workforce is made up of Professionals, Administrative or Clerical staff. The rest (23.1%) are in Sales, Services, and Transport and Production. Among the districts, Zabzugu-Tatale has the highest proportion in Agriculture (87.7%).
In contrast, the majority of the workforce in the Tamale municipality (53.9%) are engaged in Sales, Services, and Transport and Production. The Tamale municipality also has the lowest proportion of workers in Agriculture (29.1%) and the highest proportion of Professional/ Administrative/Managerial, and Clerical workforce (15.2%). The proportion of males in Agriculture and related activities in the region is higher than that of females in each district. With the exception of the Tamale municipality (39.6%) males and (16.9%) females, the highest percentage of both males (90.3%) and females (85.1%) in Agriculture and related activities are in Zabzugu Tatale (4.2%).
The lowest for males (77.5%) is in Yendi and that for the females (38.8%) is in Savelugu-Nanton. Females outnumber males in Sales, Production, Services and related activities at the regional level and in each district in the region. The pattern of occupational distribution of females in Savelugu is particularly worth noting for Agriculture (38.8%), Production and related activities (32.6%) and Sales (22.5%), which three occupations account for 93.9 per cent of all occupations.
Nationally, the main industries are Agriculture (52.0%), Wholesale and Retail Trade (15.0%) and Manufacturing (11.0%). The main industrial activity in the Northern Region is Agriculture (70.9%) comprising largely of farming, animal husbandry, hunting and forestry. There is very limited manufacturing (7.1%) in the region. Wholesale and Retail Trading also accounts for only (7.5%) of all industrial activity. Only about (0.7%) of the population are engaged in mining and quarrying activities. A variety of other enterprises in the industry sector, such as Fishing, Hotels and Restaurants, Communication, Health and Education, together comprise 10.0 per cent of the total industrial activity of the region.
The proportion of the population in Agriculture is smallest in the Tamale municipality (31.3%). In the other districts, the figure ranges between 62.2 per cent in Savelugu-Nanton to 87.2 per cent Zabzugu-Tatale. The industry sector, (Manufacturing), accounts for less than 10.0 per cent of economic activity in all districts except the Tamale municipality (14.4%), Savelugu-Nanton (14.8%), and Yendi (10.2%). There are very limited mining and quarrying activities in any of the districts. The highest proportion is recorded in Gushiegu-Karaga (1.0%), Bole (1.1%), East Mamprusi (1.0%) and Tamale (1.0%).
Wholesale and retail trading accounts for less than 10.0 per cent of all economic activity in all districts, except for the Tamale municipality (24.3%) and Savelugu-Nanton (10.3%). Transportation, Hotels and Restaurants, and other Service activities collectively account for between 7.0 and 22.2 per cent of all economic activity, making this combined sector the second largest source of employment in all the districts of the region. Four main industrial activities can be identified for the region as whole, and for the districts. For the region as a whole, Agriculture, Manufacturing Wholesale and Retail Trade activities are the main industrial activities, in that order, for both males and females. For the males, the order of industries is Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Wholesale trade predominating in eight districts.
Agriculture Wholesale and Manufacturing, in two districts and Agriculture Fishing and Whole trade/Manufacturing predominate in the two Gonja Districts, and Agriculture Manufacturing and Fishing in Saboba-Chereponi. For the females, Agriculture, Manufacturing and Sale/Trading predominate in five districts while Sales/Trading and Manufacturing exchange position in four districts. Fishing activities follow Agriculture, with Wholesale/Retail trade and Manufacturing at par, in the two Gonja Districts; Fishing follows Manufacturing and Agriculture in Saboba Chereponi. It is worth noting that males and females both participate actively in Agriculture and Fishing activities in the two Gonja and the Saboba Chereponi, Districts.
Nearly 68 per cent of the economically active population are classified as self-employed, while 22.9 per cent are unpaid family workers; only about 6.1 per cent are employees. This regional pattern is also reflected in all the districts. For example, the proportion of the self-employed ranges from 50.8 per cent in Zabzugu-Tatale, to 79.7 per cent in Savelugu- Nanton. The proportion of unpaid family workers varies from 5.2 per cent in the Tamale municipality to 45.3 per cent in Zabzugu-Tatale. The high level of unpaid family workers, recorded in some of the districts is probably a reflection of the high proportion of the population in the agricultural sector.
The bulk (83.4%) of the population of the region are employed in the private informal sector. An additional 11.5 per cent are employed in the private formal sector. This justifies the policy to encourage and reinforce the private sector to lead and speed up the growth of the economy. The public/semi public sector accounts for only 4.3 per cent of the working population.
At the district level, the proportion of the workforce in the private informal sector varies from 68.8 per cent in the Tamale municipality to 93.8 per cent in Zabzugu-Tatale. The Tamale municipality has the highest proportion of public sector employees (12.0%). In general, therefore, the private informal sector is the largest employer in all the districts. This has very important implications for taxation and revenue mobilisation and collection since those engaged in the informal private sector employment are hard to locate and categorize.
Agriculture, hunting, and forestry are the main economic activities in the region. Together, they account for the employment of 71.2 per cent of the economically active population, aged 15 years and older. Less than a tenth (7.0%) of the economically active people in the region are unemployed.
The private informal sector absorbed 83.4 per cent of the economically active population. An additional 11.5 per cent are in the private formal sector leaving the public sector with only 4.3 per cent. Majority, (40.5%) of the 251,221 the not economically active are homemaker and just under a quarter (24.4%) are students. Those who are not working because of old age constitute 14.8 per cent. A small proportion is not working because of disability (2.2%) or are pensioners who are on retirement (1.2%) while 16.9 per cent are classified as others. These rates relate to the 10-year period preceding the surveys.