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Nigerians’ Definition Of Employment Is Faulty, Says Danise

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Dr. Danise Rosemary, a lecturer at the University Of Lagos, in this interview with TEMILOLUWA ADEOYE, sheds light on how government can tackle unemployment and create more jobs.

Who do you think is responsible for job creation in Nigeria? 

WHEN it comes to job generation, it is usually the private sector that creates jobs in most advanced countries. Government sector can also create jobs for its own needs. For instance, in England, there is the National Health Service (NHS), which creates jobs, even though it is not by government; they contracted it out to be run by a trust. So government may not necessarily run it solely. 

   In Nigeria, we still have people in government employment. In fact, I think the bulk of the employed are in the civil service. The private sector is there, but it is not a very vibrant sector at the moment. Government is not creating the enabling environment needed for investors to come in.

    To create jobs in the private sector, you have to let investors come in by reassuring them that your political climate is conducive for investment

To what extent do you think the government is to blame for the current employment situation in the country?

   Even though the government has responsibility (with the kind of economy we run) to create jobs, it must also provide a conducive environment for the private sector to function.  As I said, the environment has to be investor-friendly. For instance, the oil and gas sector is run mainly by foreign companies because it is capital-intensive; Mobil and others are the foreign investors that have the amount of money required to invest.

     Also, as a people, we are supposed to create jobs but the average graduate who leaves school today would want to go and work for somebody; he is not thinking of how to become an employer of labour or how to build an enterprise. That is why all the universities take them on an entrepreneurship course, which is now compulsory in all Nigerian universities. We are trying to make sure that when we graduate students they don’t just go and sit down and start applying for jobs, they can start small-scale business.

    We cannot put the blame on government totally; in the sense that government is supposed to create an enabling environment for all those things to take off, but that has not been done. When Obama was to be elected, he promised jobs, and you know they have more credible statistics, every time I get news from New York Times, they have more credible statistics, they will say this month, so and so number of jobs were created. I don’t know if we have ever seen Nigerian governments giving monthly updates on job creation. 

   In this country, everyone blames the Federal Government, but the state governments are also supposed to create an enabling environment in their own states, even the local governments. The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that we have been attracting is huge. Look at the telecommunications sector for example. MTN makes the bulk of their money in Nigeria, even though they are in other countries. 

   So, there have been FDIs coming into the country, especially the telecoms sector, oil and gas and other sectors. There are other areas where we can attract FDI, but we don’t seem to be making enough effort.

Is our university education driven by market demand? 

    I know that our colleagues in the industry tell us all the time that we are not producing for the industry and that the kind of graduates we produce are unemployable and they have to train them for a year even if they have first class or second-class upper degree. We have tried to review our curricular in the university of Lagos to meet up with the demands of the industry and we are hoping to get positive reports soon from the private sector. 

Apart from creating enabling environment, what other things can government do to create jobs?

    Government at all levels employs about 70 percent of the Nigerian employed. The mistake Babangida made in those days when he introduced the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), was retrenching people from the public service, saying government has no business doing business, let the private sector take over. When you retrench people from the public sector, the private sector should be able to absorb the retrenched, but the private sector could not. 

    The private sector as it is structured today cannot fully employ everybody; so, government really has a role to play in employing people. Government is struggling with the dwindling price of oil and it is a big problem. We are a one-commodity nation and we are not even processing the oil here. Our refineries are not working so the oil is taken out as a primary product, shipped abroad, then they refine them and bring them back. 

    So in that regard, government is even making matters worse because if you refine in Nigeria, you will create jobs, but while unemployment persists in Nigeria, government is creating job for other countries by refining there. That is why people will continue to blame the government since it controls the sector, even though they talk about joint venture. 

   In fact, I don’t think they should repair the refineries; they are old. To build a new refinery is not expensive for a government as ours. Every state should have a refinery; there are some businesses that will also spring up as a result of it which will have a ripple effect on other sectors. So government is still the major creator of jobs. But, as I said, they can also attract private investors who can also create jobs. 

How up to date is our labour policy?

   The Nigerian labour law, which came into force in 1974, is archaic because it has not been reviewed. The conditions at that time are different from now; things have happened and how many years are we talking about? 1974 was the year I entered secondary school. So it is not only the labour law, most of our laws are archaic. However, we need to review the labour law and take cognisance of the current realities on ground. 

    Casualisation is still an issue in Nigeria, but casualisation is a worldwide phenomenon now, but what has happened in other parts of the world, not just developed countries, even Ghana here, they reviewed their labour act in 2003. They have been able to define what casual worker is, who a temporary worker is and the kind of remuneration they should get. That is what we have not done.  

    Casual workers and graduates in self-employment say they are jobless; would you say Nigerians’ definition of unemployment is faulty?

    We can say that it is a little faulty. For instance, you can hear a casual worker say let me use this job to hold body, pending when I get a more suitable job or permanent employment. Whereas, in developed countries, some people opt for that kind of job. We have this orientation that we should be in full employment even if we don’t have the capability. For instance, a woman who has growing kids who have not started school and people who have sick wife, husband or child do not need a permanent job, because they need time to raise their family. In developed countries, you see such women opting for part-time or temporary jobs. Also, students who travelled abroad are entittled to work for 20 hours in a week when you are given visa. 

    It is only in Nigeria that they tell you that if you are full time student, you should not work. In Nigeria, everybody wants to work full time.


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