According to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), between January and September 2017, 4.07 million Nigerians became unemployed. According to the Bureau, the total number of Nigerians that became unemployed in 2017 rose from 11.92 million in the first quarter of the year to 13.58 million and 15.99 million in the second and third quarters .
That figure represents 16.2 per cent of 111.1 million economically active or working age population which is put at between 15 – 64 years of age. Such figure is indeed alarming for a country battling various forms of insecurity and youth restiveness.
The effects of the millions of job lost was so glaring as the poverty and hardship across the country rose to an astronomical height.
However, for millions of these unemployed Nigerians and their dependants, the question is, will 2018 offer any new hope in terms of job creation? What new approach is government adopting to stem job losses and create new ones?
In 2016, the Nigerian economy entered into recession, with millions losing their jobs and state governors as well as other employers finding it difficult to pay workers salaries.
According to experts, unemployment always increase whenever an economy experienced a recession, and in the case of Nigeria where the unemployment rate was already high and rising even when the economy was growing strongly, it implies a recession would lead to an even sharper rise in unemployment than would normally have been expected.
Reacting to the worries of Nigerians, the minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige assured Nigerians of a brighter 2018 as efforts are in top gear by the Federal Government to stem job losses and further create new ones.
The Minister while urging Nigerians not to tremble over the statistics on job losses released by the NBS as the development is effectively modulated by a similar release by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) which indicates over a Seven Million job growth in the Agricultural sector.
“I wish to assure Nigerians that 2018 will not be as bleak as 2017 in terms of job losses as the Federal Government has put enough checks to forestall a repeat of what was encountered in 2017. As a matter of fact, the figure released by the NBC must be placed alongside statistics by the Central Bank of Nigeria which shows that over seven Million jobs have been created in the Agricultural Sector. This is the only way to arrive at a balanced job situation in the country,” Ngige said.
He further noted that the Federal Government will work harder in the new Year to create more jobs and sustain the current efforts at protecting the existing ones. “We shall continue to maintain our principled stand against retrenchment and encourage the state governments to do same,” he added.
But the question also is, what new initiative is government putting on ground to create more jobs. Experts express concern that though, the country has exceeded the recession, there are no clear or deliberate government policies that indicates that it will create more jobs.
Besides, how has the structure of economic growth and labor demand shaped the job creation process? Does rigidity in Nigerian labor markets impede job creation? Have the quality and quantity of the labor supply affected job creation? What policies have been pursued to raise the quality of the labor force? What does the expanding “informal” sector mean for the labor market and the quality of growth? Is it a route out of poverty or a low-skills trap?
There are even more worries after the Minister of Labour, Sen Ngige said: “There are no white collar jobs any longer. If you are waiting for one, you will wait for a long time.”
Perhaps, the statement of the Minister is meant to encourage the youths to embrace jobs in the informal sector where he said the federal government has created eight million jobs in three years.
Despite the plethora of various intervention schemes by successive government to stem the tide of unemployment, the menace seems to have grown into a monster.
Perhaps, 2018 is the year the All Progressives Congress (APC) led administration has to redeem itself of its campaign promise to create one million jobs annually.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while welcoming President Buhari to the National Assembly for the presentation of his proposals for the 2018 budget last November urged the President to orientate the 2018 budget towards creating jobs for Nigerians.
According to Mr. Saraki, designing the budget to create jobs will go a long way in making Nigerians feel the effect of the financial proposal of the government.
Since 1986, governments have instituted various measures and policies aimed at containing the plague of unemployment and poverty, which appear to have made insignificant impact; these include: NDE, NAPEP/Keke Napep, NEEDS (I&II), and various “Skills Acquisition/Empowerment” schemes.
The Olusegun Obasanjo administration had in the year 2000 declared a N10bn (which was very big sum then) public works scheme for direct job creation, while President Jonathan had equally announced a N50bn direct job creation in the 2011 federal budget.
It is not without reason that many are saying that all these government-sponsored job creation and poverty reduction schemes and programmes share a common destiny of publicity blitz and gradual fizzling out from the scheme of governments’ priorities.
What hope does 2018 offer?
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