By Ogwu Paul Okwuchukwu
One of the most pressing issues affecting the world currently is the high rate of unemployment and under-employment. This social economic problem needs a radical and immediate solution before it consumes the peace of the country. In Nigeria, as a result of our economic structure, demography and dysfunctional education system we face more grave dangers as a result of unemployment. The authorities in the country going by their estimates underplay the depth of the problem of unemployment and underemployment. The 23 % of the employable population are unemployed while up to 54 % of the youths in the country are either unemployed or under employed. These figures and other statistics do not show the true picture of the situation in the country. Apart from the statistics frequently realised by the Federal Bureau of statistics and The ILO, unemployment is actually higher. The number of the working population that are not currently engaged and also the rate of those engaged but are not productive is also a course for concern.
The social effect of the high rate of employment and under employment is high. In the country, the high rate of most social evils and crimes committed by unemployed and underemployed individuals can only be solved when they are engaged. We cannot divorce the terrorism, armed robbery, prostitution and other vices from the high rate of unemployment. The youths and unemployed is a willing tool for those wishing to recruit foot soldiers and adherent to its belief. As a result of this, it would be difficult for the government or the society to reduce the rate of terrorism, robbery and other social ills; unless, it provides employment and creates a good environment for the private enterprise to thrive. Creating this environment goes beyond providing the necessary framework for the private sectors to engage in creating industries and other avenues that will absolve the unemployed but ensuring a holistic approach. There are some other social and political issues that can be solved by creating employment in the land. These include corruption, increase immorality and lack of rationality among the population.
The economic impact of unemployment is also huge. A large and sizable percentage of the population is unproductive. This will result in the country capacity being underutilised and preventing it from realising its potential. The number of man hour lost by the under employed is also a big economic disaster. They are plenty of individuals who are employed but are either underutilised or are out rightly wasted in their current employment.
Addressing the high rate of unemployment is not an essay task but there is the need to make a conscious effort to reduce unemployment. Some of the measures needed to address this can be achieved by a change in mind set; diversification of our economic base ;infrastructural development; reform in the educational sector; investment in agriculture and agro based industries and reformation of the informal economy.
Our educational system needs to be reformed with a focus on practical application of knowledge .It should encourage the adoption of a system that goes side by side with skill acquisition just like the German system. This will encourage any person passing through our educational system to acquire a skill that with adequate preparation the graduate may be gainfully employed after graduation. The system should encourage competence and skills. Our educational system should also empower the guidance counselling unit to make sure youths are encouraged to identify their interest and skills nurtured to ensure students purse their careers. It is a welcome development about the introduction of entrepreneurial studies. This will encourage students to learn the act of entreprenurialship and how to set up private business. With this, it would help reduce the high level of unemployment and also increase the general economic well- being of the country and help propel the small and medium scale enterprise which is the engine room any economy. The government should also establish a mechanism to support and provide soft loans to aspiring entrepreneurs. People may argue that they are government agencies saddled with this but they should be a robust means of accessing the loans and punishment to defaulters that have made it impossible for the loans to be sustainable. The regulators should start performing their statutory functions well.
Our manufacturing sectors needs to be revitalised so engage a sizable proportion of the unemployed. This may not be on modern means of production but on a production outlet that encourages the use of labour intensive means of production over the capital intensive. They are numerous argument against this but we should realise the befit of this intends of engagement of the teaming population of unemployed Nigeria. We should be encouraged to patronise made in Nigeria goods.
Another important part of the employment drive should be a conscious change of the mind set of an average Nigeria from the work related mind-set towards the establishment of private business and also the change in the value system of an average Nigeria towards hard-work from the current easy way of making money. The country need to adjust and celebrate characters that excelled through hard-work and not those that rose to prominence through corruption and patronage system.
Okwuchukwu writes from Lagos. email@example.com