It is an issue of serious concern that in Nigeria so far, economic policies have not translated into commensurate and improved social outcomes, especially for the over 60 million young people who make up majority of the population. Joy Ekeke writes.
Africa is regarded as the most ‘youthful’ continent in the world. According to statistics, at least 20% of the continent’s population of 1.2 billion is between the age brackets of 15 – 24 years, with about 42% below 15 years of age.
This explains why the majority of the rising population who are either unemployed or under-employed portends a ticking time-bomb that can wipe out any hope of industrialisation and economic growth.
It is, however, worrisome that in Nigeria, jobless youths continue to drift in droves from rural to urban areas to further compound a dense labour market of young graduates in search for ‘any available’ job just to survive until a more suitable opportunity arises.
Accusing fingers have from time immemorial been pointed to the government for not living up to expectations at providing social amenities for it’s youths.
That in mind, one cannot rule out challenges facing governments and policy makers in Africa today. How to provide opportunities and meet the needs of young people, vast majority of whom need to be empowered to enable them live decent lives and contribute their quota to the socio economic and political development of their countries.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment remains a major concern in Nigeria, with rates rising from 6.4% in 2006 to 24.20% in the first quarter of 2015. The unemployment rate among youth is even more disturbing and considered to be over 50% due to the sheer number of unemployed graduates and a huge number of youth who have had no chance to go to school roaming about the streets.
It is worth noting that although educational attainment by Nigerian young people has increased significantly in the last decade, the relevance of curricula, quality of education and the fit with skills required by the job market, still remains a challenge for the country. “Unsuitable qualifications limits young peoples’ employment prospects and potential to contribute to national development.
In the famous manifesto delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari in preparation for the 2015 general election, this excerpt was culled up as a reminder of what promise was made about the alarming rise of unemployment in Nigeria.
“As at 1999, Nigerian rate of unemployment stood at about 8%, today it is estimated from official statistics to be close to 30%. I will embark on vocational training, entrepreneurial and skills acquisition scheme for graduates along with the creation of Small Business Loan Guarantee Scheme to create at least 5 million new jobs by 2019. A Small and Medium Enterprises Development Commission will be created for this purpose. I will also encourage State Governments to focus on employment creation, by matching everyone job created in the same state”.
How far has the Buhari-led government faired? With calculations put at over a million jobs annually to meet with the 2019 target.
The President further stated in his speeches at several other occasions that “to encourage and assist Nigerian youths to move from being job seekers to job creators, his administration will sustain and improve ongoing programmes by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, the Bank of Industry, the Bank of Agriculture and other Federal agencies to grant them start-up loans at concessionary rates”.
All these and many more have been highlighted, as the number of the unemployed in the country continues to rise due to downsizing in the productive and services’ sectors, the Federal Government may find it tough to meet its target of creating one million jobs by the end of the year, which is already nursing the last quarter.
Latest indicators have shown that more Nigerians now seek jobs that has never appealed to them, just to meet their daily needs for sustainability.
In recent recruitment exercises and empowerment programmes such as the N-Power, FIRS, FCSC, Nigeria police force, the armed forces short service courses and a list of other entrepreneurial programs by the bank of industry, central bank on Nigeria, an estimated 500,000 youths will benefit from jobs and empowerment programs for 2016. Bearing in mind, an estimated 3 million applicants who are either unemployed, under-employed or under-utilized.
Breaking down the earlier analysis, only 200,000 graduates have been shortlisted out of the 749,000 applications received under the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme, N-Power, which seeks to address unemployment challenges in the country by offering temporary jobs and technical skills to graduates.
In similar vein, statistics show that 1,611,438 people applied to fill about 10,500 vacant positions in two government agencies–the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Nigeria Police. Specifically, 700,000 applicants sought to fill 500 job openings at the FIRS while 911,438 applications were received by the Police Service Commission for 10,000 vacancies, which is still in contention with the senate on the mode of recruitment.
Although the number of applicants for the latest recruitment by the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) into 11 key ministries is yet to be released, it has been evident that the online portal for application has become inconsistent and unresponsive due to the number of traffic on the website by visitors and potential applicants.
It can be deduced that FCSC for this reason, recently extended application into the civil service to November 13 2016 according to a notice on its official website. The application was billed to end October 31 2016.
Be quick to remember that The Federal Government had last year, promised to create no fewer than one million direct jobs in 2016.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, said another one million poor Nigerians would benefit from the first phase of the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme.
Which, according to calculations is yet to hit the 50% benchmark as at the last quarter of 2016.
However, latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that subsistence and small-holder farmers are on the rise, with over four million Nigerians losing their jobs since 2015, as many have also opted for additional jobs in the informal sector to augment their means of livelihood.
Also, the data stated that a single income may no longer be enough for a family, prompting previously out-of-work housewives to seek employment to support strained income.
Youths and undergraduates have to work odd jobs on part-time to stabilize their source of income, bearing the effect on quality education and sound mind.
Indeed, the statistics reinforced the findings of the latest ‘Household Economy Survey’ by Philips Consulting that the prevailing economic situation in the country had resulted in detrimental effects on the economic security of most citizens and households.
Specifically, the severe drop in crude oil prices, decline in government revenue, devaluation of the naira and surging inflation rates, in addition to the country’s high poverty (70%) and unemployment (13.3%) rates have had a detrimental effect on the economic security of most Nigerians.
The NBS report further showed that many employees have had to contend with lesser incomes while newly employed workers have to cope with jobs not commensurate with their qualifications, just as the government continues to urge many employers of labour not to downsize.
According to the report, the number of under-employed people increased by 392,390 or 2.61 per cent, resulting in increase in the under-employment rate to 19.3 per cent (15. 4million persons) in second quarter of 2016 from 18.3 per cent (13.5 million persons) in the corresponding period of last year.
The situation has become so worrisome that the Senate has urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on unemployment with a view to confronting the challenge.
The upper chamber also summoned the Minister of Labour and Productivity Chris Ngige to provide insight into government’s roadmap for tackling the shocking unemployment rate with a view to reinforcing the blueprint.
Adopting the motion sponsored by Duro Faseyi (PDP, Ekiti North) titled “Intolerable Upswing of Unemployment in Nigeria”, the Senate directed the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) particularly the security outfits to enlist more Nigerian youths as a measure towards enhancing security around the country and ease unemployment.
Managing a country of over 160 million people with a dependent ratio of 23.5%, Provision of jobs goes beyond paper and lip-service. The president reiterated the commitment of his administration at providing jobs, but Nigerians ask, how well?
The president urged the Nigerian private sector who are believed to be the drivers of the economy, to also do more in supporting government’s efforts to boost youth entrepreneurship and the development of micro, small and medium scale enterprises in the country, pointing out that it was in recognition of the importance of entrepreneurial skills that the federal government through the National Universities Commission made it mandatory for all universities to teach entrepreneurship skills, so that graduates can become job creators instead of job seekers after schooling.
Since the approval and commissioning of 6 new universities in the country, Nigerians have been asking why little attention is being paid to technical institutions in the country, considering how Nigerians are skillful and highly talented individuals.
2017 is around the corner and a formidable blueprint on Government’s plans to tackle many issues, with particular emphasis on unemployment, economy and security.