By Isayinka Stephen
The scourge of joblessness and youth unemployment is neither a fairytale nor a myth in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Over 55.4 per cent of young people aged 18 to 35 are unable to find suitable work to earn a living. Nearly a quarter of the entire Nigerian population is out of work and over 20 per cent is underemployed. In attestation to this fact, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, disclosed that the unemployment rate may increase from 23.1% to 33.5% by 2020.
By some estimates, Nigerian tertiary education institutions produce up to 500,000 graduates every year and there are also Nigerian graduates who study abroad and come home to compete for jobs annually. This new data is a sign of the need for urgent actions on both public and private sector operators.
As a result, creation of jobs has been one of the key issues discussed throughout the campaigns in Nigeria. To a large extent, it can be said that poverty, crimes, armed conflicts and other related social problems in the country are derivatives of unemployment. Truly, an idle man is the devil’s workshop. Oftentimes, the hungry youths are vital instruments mobilised for selfish political ambitions either as thugs or the like. Unfortunately, those instruments are dumped after use. Being young in Nigeria is very challenging basically as a result of the fact that there are no opportunities awaiting our so-called future. Apart from job applicants, undergraduates seeking outside-the-classroom experience are battered by the rigorous procedures for internship placement or unwelcoming policies of many industries or organisations in the country.
As a result, a vast number of our youths wander in the wilderness of hopelessness with a sizable number of the unemployed intensifying national insecurity through crimes and other related social vices. The isolation of the youth not only dents our image as the giant of Africa but also serves as a quick self-destructive technique to the better Nigeria we all hope for.
Apart from the high crime rate in Nigeria, the increasing unemployment rate continually constitutes adverse effects on both the economy and society. The reduction in the national output of goods and services, increasing number of dependent people, rural-urban migration and a high level of poverty are all end results of this misery.
Moreover, several factors contribute to this. One of the major elements responsible for the high level of unemployment is the rapid growth in population. There has been an increase in the growth of the labour force along with the inadequate supply of jobs. The rapid population growth has been accentuated by rural-urban migration. This has increased the population in cities thereby raising the level of joblessness.
Currently, the youth literacy rates are 79.89% and 65.33% for males and females respectively. The lack of quality education escalates this misery as most employers assume that Nigerian graduates are lazy and or unemployable. Besides, the poor education sector which places priority on theories at the expense of practical use of knowledge aggravates youth unemployment. For example, a graduate of agricultural science may be conversant with the theories of farming but lacks practical agricultural skills. It is a nightmare that many tertiary institutions lack practical entrepreneurial training. A programme that ought to be a systematic consolation and pathway to self-discovery for the weary youths turns out to be something else.
Another key problem is the combination of poor leadership and high level of corruption in Nigeria. The failure of government to perform its constitutional duties has resulted in high level of unemployment. Also, corruption among politicians has resulted in the mismanagement of funds which should have been used for the creation of job opportunities.
In addition, the misery of most Nigerians has been worsened by the decline in economic activities. This factor invariably intensifies the plight of the youth as they wander around with their curriculum vitaes seeking opportunities that may abound for a livelihood. Due to recession, a lot of adults (including youths) have been sacked from work, thus creating no opportunities for the unemployed. Most companies (especially banks) lay off their employees because they can no longer afford their pay.
The lack of steady and sustainable power supply has made the economy volatile. The mystery behind this is that it scares away investors. The lack of basic infrastructure has led to the high cost of production. No wonder companies make use of fewer hands because of the high cost of production.
To overcome the unemployment crisis in Nigeria, government must be effective in performing its duties. An enabling environment should be created for productive activities to thrive. There is a need for government to foresee the looming crisis and take all possible actions to prevent it. It is very important.
Isayinka Stephen, writes from Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja. Isayinkastephen@gmail.com