The disclosure in a report by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) which puts the number of Nigerian graduates who completed the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) within the last five years but have remained unemployed at over 200,000 is appalling. Considering that this figure does not include those who did not enjoy tertiary education during the period but are equally unemployed, the situation demands immediate action by governments at all levels.
This is because unemployment retards human development and breeds poverty, which in turn leads to low levels of consumption and income. The unrelenting social upheavals in the forms of increasing crime wave and insecurity in the country are the unfortunate consequences of high unemployment rate. A recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) equally identified unemployment as the root causes of the growing rate of anti-social activities by youths. Inability to find work by young people usually creates a sense of vulnerability, uselessness and idleness which in turn heightens the attraction to illegal activities.
Conversely, a reduced unemployment rate will bring about improved human development and reduce poverty. It will also reduce crime and insecurity and enthrone an enabling and conducive environment that will attract foreign investment into the country. It is worrying that despite vast human and material resources naturally bestowed on the country, gross mismanagement, profligate spending, poor leadership and corruption by public officials have not allowed optimal utilisation of these resources in such a way that they would bring maximum economic benefits and employment generation to the citizenry.
The figure which was obtained through a national registration of the unemployed in designated centres throughout the country is certainly not definitive because unemployed persons who failed to respond to the call for registration cannot be ascertained. Some may have travelled to neighbouring countries or Europe and America in search of greener pastures. Others may be bedridden at the time while some may simply have ignored the call to come forward and register. Besides, some of those that registered may be engaged in employment that they considered unsatisfactory.
According to the NDE, some of these considerations mean that the total figure of the unemployed is still pending. Similarly, the World Bank and the Nigerian Institute for Social Research (Niser) in separate reports revealed that over 55 percent of Nigerians of working age are unemployed while more than 60 percent are under-employed. If these estimates are anything to go by, then the actual figure of unemployment in Nigeria may be much higher than the projection of the NDE. The government must see the threats posed by unemployment as serious enough to declare an emergency on the situation.
Unemployment poses serious challenges to the country.
The challenge of unemployment has given rise to youth restiveness and other social vices in the country and discouraged foreign investment. Therefore any hope of making the country safe for foreign investors must start with combating unemployment. As the unemployment rate in the country drops, the human development index and living conditions of the citizenry will improve and social vices and increasing crime wave which discourage foreign investment will equally be reduced.
The high unemployment rate in the country regrettably poses a great challenge to actualizing the country’s targeted Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For instance, part of Nigeria’s MDGs require governments “to develop and implement strategies that give young people everywhere a real chance to find decent and productive work.” Without real jobs, youths easily fall prey to people who want to use them to foment trouble. This is why there will be a need for government to embark on fundamental changes that would reduce the high rate of unemployment in the country. For as long as the unemployment rate remains high and the people live in abject poverty and deprivation, Nigeria cannot attain real development.
The government must adopt credible programmes that would address the rising unemployment in the country. For instance, the government must provide the enabling environment for the industrial sector to thrive through the provision of basic infrastructures like electricity, good roads and security. The biggest challenge to reducing unemployment in Nigeria is the undeveloped private sector which has left government as the biggest employer of labour.
The government must create the necessary environment that would encourage the development of the private sector because, in other virile economies, the private sector drives the economy. It could also review the curriculum of the nation’s higher institutions and universities to inculcate functional entrepreneurship skills in the graduates so that they could become employers rather than employees will also go a long way in reducing the high unemployment rate in the country.
There will be a need for government to establish more programmes like the NDE to help unemployed youths acquire skills that would help them become self-employed rather than wait for jobs that are not there. The government should also make loans available on friendly terms to those who want to establish genuine businesses of their own.
The NDE which was established to empower the unskilled youths and other members of the public to acquire marketable skills that would help them set up their own businesses has only recorded limited success because the infrastructure that will aid successful business are not yet there. That is why government at all should work together to make necessary changes in policy formulation and implementation that will reduce unemployment.
All tiers of government must see unemployment as a serious danger to the overall well-being of the country and work hard to reduce the high unemployment rate. Unless there is employment, there is no way Nigeria can effectively tackle the problems of poverty and crime which are obstacles to attaining the MDGs.
- Financial Standard, Thursday, 11 June 2009