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Diversify economy to tackle rising unemployment, by experts

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Until the Federal Government’s move to diversify the economy is properly implemented, the rate of unemployment will continue to rise.

Experts are of the view that as a matter of priority, the government must be innovative in diversifying Nigeria’s economy to get more people out of the unemployment sphere.

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This is coming on the heels of the recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showing that the unemployment rate rose from 27.1 per cent in the second quarter (Q2) of 2020 to 33.3 per cent in the fourth quarter (Q4) while the underemployment rate decreased from 28.6 per cent to 22.8 per cent.

The NBS stated in its report titled ‘Labour force Statistics: Unemployment and underemployment report- Abridged labour force survey under COVID-19 (Q4, 2020)’ that the percentage translated to 23.19 million unemployed people.

Labour experts have called on the government to declare a state of emergency on job creation in Nigeria.

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They argued that with the current rate of unemployment, there was a need for the public and private sectors to team up to address the challenge.

Director-General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Dr. Timothy Olawale, maintained that the high rate of unemployment should spur government at all levels to be more proactive, transparent, and focused on meeting the expectations of the citizens.

According to him, more efforts must be channeled to fast-track economic revival, starting with support for the real sector.

While the government had put in place several initiatives to ameliorate the challenges, he said the fundamental issues arising from COVID-19 and its negative effects on businesses had not been addressed sufficiently.

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The NECA boss pointed out that the recent economic recession had exacerbated the unemployment rate as major sectors of the economy stagnated with negative growth, even though the nation technically exited recession in February 2021.

While proffering a solution to the crisis, Olawale urged the government to refocus its efforts on supporting organised businesses to increase production capacity, which would invariably enable them to create more jobs.

He said real and verifiable support should be given to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to enable growth from the bottom up and a critical impact-audit of current interventions made to determine their effectiveness and relevance in the context of current realities.

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A Public Affair Analyst, Jide Ojo, who faulted the NBS’ report, declared that the figure was conservative, saying: “Looking at a very gloomy situation the country faces, the figure should be in the neighbourhood of 40 per cent. Nigeria is in a dire situation.

“When it was announced that Nigeria has technically exited recession, they were just deceiving themselves. How can you have such a huge unemployment figure and you said you have exited recession?”

“An increased unemployment rate would virtually lead to increased poverty level; no two way about it and eventually lead to an increase in crime rate, insecurity and corruption. If you don’t pay workers a living wage, they would want to augment their sources of income, through illegal means for them to meet up their responsibilities.”

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Many were also thrown out of jobs due to COVID-19. Many foreign nationals operating in Nigeria, what they offer their workers are far below the national minimum wage.”

To solve unemployment challenges, Ojo added: “We need to fix insecurity, infrastructure, improve significantly the ease of doing business and fight corruption to the barest minimum. It is all about diversification of the economy. If we don’t diversify, we can’t get more people out of unemployment.”

Similarly, a lawyer and labour expert, Paul Omoijiade, said the high employment rate would continue to rise until measures are taken to boost the economy, noting that businesses must be doing well to create sustained employment.

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He said there is the need to deliberately build the skills of the unemployed persons with efficient supervision of the ministry of labour.

He said the skilled trade department could organise trade fairs three to four times yearly for those that want to acquire skills.

He also insisted that there must be regulations to safeguard employment through a proper legal framework, where employers must be made to comply with relevant ILO standards and regulations before sacking employees.

He added that the government can look into areas of exporting labour manpower to available countries to generate foreign exchange and also create jobs.

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