FEATURE ARTICLE

Ogwu Paul OkwuchukwuThursday, April 3, 2014
ogwupaulo@yahoo.com
Abuja, Nigeria

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UNEMPLOYMENT IN NIGERIA AS A TICKING TIME BOMB

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ne 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 recent immigration tragedy doesn't even tell the true situation. This is because some of the people that went for the job are either employed or under-employed but looking for a federal job. In addition, we should also realise that a sizable percentage of those looking for job may not have been invited for the screening exercise as a result of age, qualification and lack of information about the exercises. The large number of job seekers in the country needs to be engaged to help alleviate the suffering they go through. Any individual that has gone through this psychological trauma will agree that it is one of the most difficult states an individual can find himself in.

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 reform 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.

We could also co-operate with the informal sector of the economy and also set up the necessary framework and enabling environment for it to thrive. The informal sector although mostly ignored in both the macro and micro economic planning seems to have the largest pool of self- employed segment of the population. The rate of unemployment and under-employment would have been higher if the informal sector is thriving. The level of liquidity and activities that goes on in the informal sector if well regulated can serve as a catalyst towards launching the country into an economic giant. Just like the NDE initiatives, the collaboration between the government and the informal sector to train graduates on skill acquisition should be broadened and given wide sector reform. This is to increase the capacity and serve as a training platform to empower the youths and the unemployed.

As part of the measures towards providing an enabling environment to the informal sector the government should look at the provision of critical infrastructure like electricity, roads and other needed infrastructure that would reduce the urban immigration and ensure an even spread in terms of development. The provision of the needed infrastructure which included housing would help in not only providing human essential need but also ensuring a multiplier effects in the economy. And the reduction in unemployment as it will cater for artisans engaged in the construction sub -sector. The provision of electricity and roads will encourage not only the small -scale industries but would impact positively on Agriculture and other agro-based industries. Electricity will help in storages and processing of agro foods and encourage people to enjoy basic amenities in the rural areas while good roads will ensure that surplus goods are transported to the urban areas where they are needed. The need to invest heavily on Agriculture with its multiplier effect should be at the fore front of government aim to diversify our mono -economy. We are in deep trouble if we continue to rely on oil which caters for less than three percent of the population in real terms .This is because apart from the tiny segment of the population and the ruling elites; petroleum and petro dollars does not really contribute anything to an average Nigeria. This is in addition to the unstable oil market caused by the economic problem in the western world, discovery of shale oil and increasing oil discovery in some countries. It is important the economy is diversified into other equally important sectors to create employment for the teaming youths and the unemployed. We are witnessing high economic growth with jobless growth.

Some other areas of the economy that needs urgent attention to help bridge the unemployment gap includes the services sector and most especially the Tourism sector .The liberalisation of the telecom sector brought with it a massive economic drive and boost. Some aspect of the tourism sector that would give the country a boost is the area of cultural tourism. Although before we talk of tourism we need to do a lot of work in addressing our security challenge and in washing our battered image. This sector has the capacity to contribute to the economic growth and reduction of unemployment. The Nollywood industry has actually done a lot in marketing the Nigeria brand. The Nollywood industry has been a good brand for the country. The popularity of the Nollywood is one of the greatest Nigeria export to the African and afro Caribbean nations. With an enabling environment and government support this industry would engage a sizable portion of the population with its multiplier effect. The country is filled with important heritage sites that need to be explored.

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.

Added to this is the need to ensure an improvement in governance which would help in blocking wastages in the system by ensuring accountability and transparency in the management of the economy. This would ensure that scare resources are well utilised and channel to those sectors that would help grow the economy and reduce the high level of corruption within the public sector. A situation where an individual that is worth billions keeps the money in a foreign account thereby using it to develop another country is inimical to our growth and development. This would have been better utilised to establish cottage industries and businesses that would benefit the local economy and engage a sizable percentage of the population.

The unemployment situation is a time bomb waiting to happen. Our policy makers should have envisaged the high level of crime and criminal activities in the country because of the high rate of unemployment. We would witness even a high rate of social, political and economic upheavals except we address the high rate of employment and under- employment. The effect of this in the country would be disastrous and we may be facing a turbulent future in all aspect of the country except we create jobs and engage the teaming population. In terms of our demography and expanding population this is an urgent need. It is more critical than any other thing that we might be facing now.

Ogwu Paul Okwuchukwu is a Public affairs analyst in Abuja.

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