Reviewing age limit for graduate employment
Belated as it seems, the recommendation of the Senate asking the Federal Government to direct the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity to review age barrier for graduate employment and create jobs for Nigerian graduates, is commendable and consolatory. It seems to be a genuine expression of concern for the teeming unemployed graduate population in the country. If this is the case, the concern needs to be pursued to a more appreciable end. Yet this laudable goal should not be restricted to just job creation in ministries, departments and agencies. It needs of necessity to be extended to the availability of job opportunities across platforms.
Why should it be? According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), at the second quarter of 2019, Nigeria’s national labour force stood at 69 per cent of the population of 200 million. With an employment-to-population ratio that was 66.6 per cent, the figure meant that 33.4 per cent of the national labour force was unemployed. As a researcher pointed out, “working with an estimated population of 200 million, Nigeria’s labour force is roughly 138 million, 33.4 per cent or 66.6 million of which are unemployed as of mid-2019.” Figures retrieved from the NBS also suggest that 38.1 per cent of the unemployed work force are graduates of tertiary institutions of learning; thus translating to about 25.4 million unemployed graduates.
Besides, it is an interesting paradox that whereas there is an increase in the production of graduates with 134 recognised polytechnics and 174 universities in the country, there is an inverse proportion in terms of employment. Obnoxious policies and harsh economic conditions have forced companies to take flight from this country and have also caused uneven distribution of employment in government MDAs.
Indeed, there is good sense in the positive review of the age-limit for graduate employment proposed by the Senate. Amongst other things, it could raise hope and minimize criminal tendencies of frustrated unemployed persons who may be affected the age-limit earlier imposed. Moreover, the preference for 21-25 year old graduates often imposed by employers has been implicated in the prevalent trend of age falsification amongst job seekers. As one senator queried, if a graduate could not get employed at 24, and then waited for about seven to 10 years to find an opening for their first job, what different does it make? A lot, from the perspective of the employer, but human resources experts point us to a few.
Human resources experts think that older employees are likely to price their job highly, and be loyal to the company or establishment in which they find themselves. They are also able to bring life experiences to bear on their jobs, and take decisions more prudently. However, from the angle of employers, a workforce loaded with older people has a way of affecting productivity. The burden of family responsibilities is likely to affect their overall delivery.
Just as older graduate employees, younger graduates are preferred for their adroitness to technology. Being millennial professionals, they are more open to innovation and change, even as they are accommodative of flexible work regimes. However, since they are constantly in need of experience, younger graduates tend to be frequent job changers.
Furthermore, the benefits of any positive review of age-limits mainly concern graduate employment in Federal Government establishments. International organisations, blue chip companies and many private firms operating in the country may likely adhere to their established procedures for graduate employment notwithstanding what the outcome of the Senate proposal may portend.
Reviewing age-limit for graduate employment and job-creation by government MDAs are laudable moves, yet they remain tokenist as a policy addressing the problem of rising graduate unemployment. Even if the government decides to create one million jobs yearly in federal establishments for graduates, it would still amount to the usual characteristic ad-hoc-ism employed in addressing serious problems. To give perspective to the futility of this ad-hoc routine, Nigerians should recall that in 2018, when the former chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, stated that about 700,000 applicants, among which were 2,000 First Class degree holders, applied for 500 advertised positions in the agencies.
In the same year, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) claimed that it received 324,000 applications for 4,000 advertised positions for the officer, inspectorate and road marshal cadres. A few months ago, reports had it that about 60,000 candidates applied for about 100 vacant positions at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The Guardian maintains, therefore, that whilst the call for the review of age limits for graduate employments is consoling, it seems trite when viewed from the perspective of the overall unemployment indicators. Beyond job creation in the MDAs of the Federal Government, Nigerians need an enabling environment as well as a conducive space for them to nurture, flourish and profit from their inner-lying potentials and productive capacities. Politicians should not delude young and vibrant Nigerians that placements in jobs created by the Federal Government is the next level of their aspirations. This country is abundant with skillful and entrepreneur young persons who require the provision of simple factors of production and genuine motivation to stimulate their productive skills.
Far more than review of age-limit, the greater issue is the creation of an enabling environment and conducive atmosphere for self-actualisation for all capable and employable persons.