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Concerns as unemployment remains untamed

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Despite acclaimed efforts by the current government to improve the economy in the past three and half years, the unemployment rate has dramatically risen.With a breakdown that shows 115.4 million unemployed Nigerians out of an estimated 190million as released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), experts and other stakeholders are projecting that the unemployment rate may likely hit 30 per cent as higher institutions continue to turn out graduates.   
 
Experts submitted that the rate may be exacerbated simply because government has no ready-made jobs for the unemployed youths.They explained how the private sector could help stem the tide, only if government could give them the enabling policies to thrive, as weak capacity to attract foreign investments and challenging local business environment have been attributed as major reasons limiting the private sector capacity to create jobs.
 
The NBS last week released that Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter (Q3) of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in Q3 2018.With 20.9 million people unemployed at the end third quarter, the statistics bureau stated the economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years) increased from 111.1 million in Q3 2017 to 115.5million in Q3 2018.  

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Of the 20.9 million persons classified as unemployed as at Q3 2018, 11.1 million did some form of work but for too few hours a week (under 20 hours) to be officially classified as employed, while 9.7 million did absolutely nothing, the NBS said.It report noted: “Of the 9.7 million unemployed that did absolutely nothing as at Q3 2018, 90.1% of them or 8.77 million were reported to be unemployed and doing nothing because they were first time job seekers and have never worked before.”  
 
The Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf explained that the time has come for government to activate policies that would assist the private sector create jobs.
 
“The private sector is not robust and it is affecting the growth of the economy. We keep borrowing to finance projects. The Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) are not going to sectors that are elastic in terms of job creation. All these need to be improved upon,” he said.
 
Although, the Federal Government had said that the increase in unemployment is not because the Buhari-led administration has not created jobs, but is as a result of how new jobs lag behind the rate of new entrants into the job market.
 
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, who spoke in Abuja, recently, argued that employment growth usually slows down during a recession and takes time to recover.
 
However, he gave an assurance that government is working hard to ensure that more jobs are created to cater for the new entrants to the job market. Udoma, who expressed confidence that as the economy continues on its upward trajectory, having come out of recession, the country will see the unemployment figures coming down.
 
This confidence, he said is due to the strong focus that the current administration has shown in implementing the investor, and job creation friendly policies, and programmes of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).He assured that over the next year, Nigerians should expect to see a large increase in job opportunities and a consequent reduction in the overall rate of unemployment.
 
A senior economist with SPM Professionals, Paul Alaje, said the NBS unemployment statistics shows something must suffer in a country whose growth is lower than its population. According to him, in Nigeria’s case, it is employment that is suffering. 
 
While the government has adopted a direct method of injecting finance into the system, he said most micro-finance banks, whose core responsibility is to provide micro-finance options to small and medium enterprises are not doing so.“Agriculture, which is the main focus of go ernment for job creation is not made to attract young graduates. Again, the kind of education system in the country does not prepare young people to be entrepreneurial. All these have implications for the job market,” he said.

Director of Entrepreneurship Centre, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Adebisi Abayomi said government and other concerned stakeholders need to think backward by ensuring the fact that the youths are encouraged to be self-sufficient and create businesses on their own even while in school.He told The Guardian how UNILAG has trained its students on the need to drive one to self-sufficiency and creating things by themselves to prepare them for life after graduation.

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“If not for ASUU strike, by January, most universities would be churning out large crowd of graduates of over 15,000 per school. What become of them? Their number will add up to the unemployment rate, it will further increase to like 30 per cent because there is no job being created rather people are losing jobs.“For us at UNILAG, we are converting all disciplines to entrepreneurship, where they are converted profitable business venture. As Director of Entrepreneurship Centre, what I have done is to ensure that our discipline has entrepreneur attached to them. We are trying to refocus the minds of the students to what they can turn their discipline in terms of been profitable rather than looking for jobs when they graduate.
 
“Our graduates are being turned to job creator rather than job seekers. Once they leave the university, they are leaving with idea, which would be developed and transformed into creating jobs for themselves. So, the issue of frustration would be out of it,” he said.However, Dr. Abayomi urged government to ensure access to funding, “so that most of the good business ideas can be seek-funded. Once they have the assurance that such funds can be given to them when they finish, they begin to grow the business, because for me, government is not looking at creating more jobs.”
 
The Director-General Designate, Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale noted that to tackle the increasing unemployment rate, government should focus on developing skills for youths to be self-employed. He said for most of the jobs available, majority of the youths don’t have the competent skills to man them. He added: “Government should encourage technical and vocational skills development, once they are better equipped, they can do things on their own, get jobs, and most likely be employers of labour ultimately.”
 
On what the private sector is doing to assist government create jobs, he said: “We believe there is the need for us to develop technical skill. That is why NECA is collaborating with Industrial Training Fund (ITF) on Technical Skills Development Project (TSDP), where thousands of youths are empowered with technical skills, and at the end of the training, majority are employed by private companies yearly.
 
“For 2018, we are graduating about 1,700 students and government can replicate that on a larger scale because we are doing that within available resources.“As organised private sector, we developed an online solution on self-employment called NECApreneur to inculcate entrepreneurial skills in them so that they can start and their businesses.”On his part, the Programme Officer, Faculty of Business Administration, University of Uyo, Paul Awulu identified unemployment as the major cause of insurgency in Nigeria. 
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He said the state government pays over 90 per cent of its allocation on salaries and services of loans, which means that no provision for capital projects and job creation. He added that agriculture, which created major source of employment, was left as soon as Nigeria discovered oil.He urged universities in the country to initiate academic programmes capable of producing graduates, who would become employers of labour rather than employment-seekers.
 
NBS states that Nigeria is too weak to close the significant employment gap that has emerged since the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2008.Similarly, the president of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero said except government assists the private sector, since they depend on government policies, but due to high rate of inflation, ease of doing business became harder, which will affect robust employment opportunities.
 
As job creation as a burning issue comes as no surprise considering the rising rate of unemployment in Nigeria, public opinion poll released by NOIPolls reveal that 89 per cent of Nigerians believed that the country has not fared well mostly in the areas of job creation in year 2018 in review.
 


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