The buzz around implementing a 24-hour economy in Ghana has reached fever pitch. Proponents argue that enabling businesses to operate continuously will supercharge growth and productivity. But at what cost? While a 24-hour model offers some tantalizing benefits, it also threatens to undermine workers' health and wellbeing if improperly managed. As Ghana weighs this bold vision for its economic future, policymakers must strike the delicate balance between progress and humanity.
On the surface, shifting to an around the clock economic model appears to offer something for everyone. Employees gain greater flexibility to choose working hours that fit their individual needs. Companies can maximize output and efficiency with non-stop operations. Customers enjoy easier access to goods and services at all times of day. And on a macro scale, the country benefits from increased employment opportunities and economic activity.
But the rewards of a 24-hour economy should not overshadow the significant downsides lurking below the surface. Studies consistently show that sustained night shift work and irregular hours interfere with circadian rhythms, disrupt sleep and family life, and increase the risk of chronic health issues. While some essential industries like healthcare already operate this way, extending such demanding schedules to entire sectors of the economy could have profoundly negative impacts.
Beyond health concerns, enforcing a 24-hour cycle overlooks many people's understandable unwillingness to work nights or irregular hours. Single parents, in particular, often lack the flexibility to take on such schedules without advance notice or childcare support. For many, non-standard working hours are simply incompatible with family responsibilities. A blanket policy risks leaving these groups behind.
There is also the question of whether customers truly demand round-the-clock availability for most goods and services. While select industries like transportation must run continuously, does the average Ghanaian really need retail stores and restaurants open at 3 AM? Efforts to cultivate a 24-hour economy could waste tremendous resources without actually fulfilling unmet needs.
Plus, even in our increasingly digital world, human beings still require in-person social interaction. An economy that never sleeps could deprive workers of opportunities for community involvement and family time when others are typically not working. This disruption of work-life balance could have dire consequences for mental health and relationships.
So where does this leave Ghana? With careful planning, segments of the economy could feasibly adopt 24-hour operations without undue harm. But rather than forcing all industries to comply with rigid scheduling, policymakers should adopt a flexible framework that empowers each sector to tailor hours to actual customer demand.
Workers rights must also sit at the heart of any expanded hours initiative. Robust protections and benefits for all employees working overnight and irregular shifts are non-negotiable, including fair hourly wages, healthcare, paid leave, and robust anti-discrimination policies. Without these worker-focused conditions in place, 24-hour operations are a non-starter.
Like any monumental shift, implementing 24-hour commerce promises both opportunities and pitfalls for Ghana. But by prioritizing inclusivity, protecting livelihoods, and leading with compassion, the country can chart the smartest path forward. The key is balancing productivity with humanity. With thoughtful tuning, an economy that truly empowers people to work and businesses to thrive around the clock can become reality.