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Policy options to deepen job creation in Nigeria

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The ultimate goal of economic growth is to improve the living standard of people in any country. This goal is sustainably achieved, primarily through people’s employment income. Thus, employment is seen as the main mechanism through which the goal of economic performance is reflected and achieved. In the same vein, the twin issues of job creation and full employment are regarded as economic fundamentals and the availability of good jobs is mostly used as an important and strategic measure of the health of any economy.

These underpinned the recent strategic policy dialogue and convergence in Ibadan of economic and policy experts and stakeholders at a two day policy dialogue on job creation in Nigeria organised by the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) under the auspices of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA).

The meeting headlined by Ambassador Yemi Dipeolu, Economic Adviser to the President was aimed at enhancing the quality of governance and public policy while keeping the policy conversation alive within a stakeholder inclusive process.

The agenda for the dialogue was set by the technical report on Employment, Unemployment and Job creation in Nigeria. The report provided a broad review of several key questions that dealt with the performance of the Nigerian economy in terms of growth vis a vis unemployment and job creation. It also examined the impact of the economy’s lack of structural transformation on the weak creation of proactive jobs. The report also probed the different constraints to the creation of productive jobs across different sectors of the economy, as well as the relative importance and effectiveness of labour market strategy and policies in strengthening the creation of productive jobs in the country.

Experts and policy experts and other stakeholders at the meeting were unanimous in their assessment of the country’s economic growth. They agreed that the nation’s economy has recorded considerable growth within the last decade, albeit within a largely untransformed economic structure, but the pattern of growth has been largely uneven and socially non-inclusive, generating limited sources of new employment.

The verdict is that an economic growth which generates new jobs and income for individuals is a sine qua non for increasing productive employment hence the call for an urgent and strategic need for the re-assessment of Nigeria’s economic growth to ensure that this growth addresses the challenges of unemployment and job creation in the country.

The problem of employment adequacy took the attention of the two-day meeting as well. It was established that the economically active population (15-64) is excluded from productivity because of the rising rate of unemployment and underemployment especially among the youth category. However, this huge youth unemployment rate in the country cannot be divorced from weak policy conceptualisation, management and evaluation.

There is therefore an urgent and well-calibrated need for aggressive and proactive job creation and youth employment strategies to stave off possible uncontrollable social tension and loss of a generation of young people.

In spite of the economic strides recorded by Nigeria, the stakeholders present picked holes in it that the growth process is not employment-intensive and has not been able to generate enough jobs to meet the demand of the country’s growing labour force. The low employment-intensity is directly linked to the structure of the Nigerian economy, which is heavily dependent on oil and gas. Notably, the oil and gas sector is not labour intensive in terms of its production process. To this end, standard policies that are directed at promoting economic growth will not effectively respond to the challenge of job creation.

Beyond this, it was established that a significant proportion of the nation’s workforce is negatively affected by varying degrees of unemployability and skills mismatch. This is closely connected with the nation’s existing but defective education and training systems. It was identified that there is no direct nexus between education and work in Nigeria’s basic education system. It was suggested that there should be a formal system within our education system where people get practical pre-work knowledge and exposure in their chosen field before starting the career.

Still closely tied to the education system as preparation for life is the skewed policy bias in favour of formal education. Although the informal sector is a veritable creator of jobs in Nigeria, limited policy attention has been accorded the skills needed to support productivity and necessary structural changes in the informal sector.

Successive governments in the country have failed to give balance attention to the basic avenues of skills acquisition, as they have repeatedly concentrated resources and expertise on the formal Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), to the detriment of traditional apprenticeship and non formal training.

It noted that in spite of the policy favour, TVET is still confronted by serious challenges in terms of the gap between acquired competences and available opportunities. These challenges are not unconnected with the lack of systematic assessment of labour market relevance of the education offered as well as a lack of mechanism for self evaluation by the TVET institutions.

It therefore recommended a re-organisation of traditional apprenticeship and non-formal training schemes as well as the incorporation of standardized certification procedures as a way of increasing their capacities and capabilities to generate employment in the informal sector. This will also check the mismatch between employment opportunities available in the labour market and the types of qualifications produced by the education and training systems.

This is expected to be the active complement to the Nigeria’s six level National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF) which links the education and training systems in terms of industry and competence based qualifications.

The job creation challenge in the country can be effectively addressed through a strict adherence to and execution of the different strategies and policy framework that have been put in place to drive the employment drive in the country. There is therefore the need for the political will to follow through the provision of different policy documents and strategies including the National Employment Policy (NEP) of 2002, the national action Plan on Employment Creation (NAPEC), National Youth Policy (NYP) of 2009 as well as the National Policy on Education (NPE).

It was agreed that Nigerian youths must be made industry ready and relevant by equipping them with skills that satisfy the specifications of employers. Investments in a highly productive and skilled workforce will lead to the expansion of growth potential and employment opportunities as well as strategic and meaningful contributions to overall national development.

It was agreed that job creation involves the public and private sector. The government as an indirect creator of jobs is expected to put in place the right policies to stimulate the growth that will be headlined by the private sector. Thus the partnership must be strengthened with both parties complementing each other. Productivity, it was agreed, gives growth but innovation and new products produce employments. Thus governance and policy continuity should be given premium by the government.

It was also suggested that there should be a constant review of all economic policies to ensure that they remain relevant and deliver according to their design and goals. The desired economic changes will not happen automatically or autonomously as policies are as good as hot air, remaining near virtual until they are implemented.

There must be a holistic economic diversification that will add value to every stakeholder. A rethink of the agricultural policy of the government to include land reforms that give titles of lands to farmers was advised. The Federal Government should undertake comprehensive land reforms in the country. This, it was agreed, became necessary in the light of government’s emphasis on Agriculture as the planned mainstay of the nation’s economy. Full economic empowerments of farmers within the Agricultural scope would remain incomplete and without merits until the farmers are given titles to the lands they work upon. Agriculture will fail to yield premium and balance benefits to all parties as long as farmers are denied the economic benefits of holding titles to their lands as this transforms the lands to assets.

The policy dialogue afforded the government a platform to highlight its commitment to and strides in addressing the unemployment challenges in the country.

It pointed out among other things that, there is a very intensive youth engagement across different platforms all over the country with the active involvement of the Federal Government. State governments are also encouraged to buy into this and replicate same engagements across the country.

There is also a huge leverage on technology and innovations especially among the youths as this has been found to give a global relevance and competitive edge to Nigerian youths. The government is also not slack in the provision of enabling environment and policies to drive inclusive economic growth in the country while facilitating opportunities for Nigerians through technical co operations with global industry leaders across the globe as well as connecting Nigerian professionals as well as creative minds with latest technologies, innovations and opportunities, around the world.

‘• Tunji Olaopa, PhD is Professor of Public Administration,
Lead City University, Ibadan/EVC, ISGPP
tolaopa2003@gmail.com
tolaopa@isgpp.com.ng


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