Available statistics indicate that Nigeria has a predominantly youth population. Some experts claim that the estimated 200 million figure is made up of youths aged 35 and below. Under normal circumstances, they ought to constitute the active labour force. Within this population bracket also are school children at all levels of the education strata. What this implies is that provision must be made not just for school and health facilities but also for jobs. But this is not happening as a result of some factors that are mostly self-inflicted- bad governance and corruption, for instance. These are putting a severe strain on a nation suffering from a slowing economy and declining revenue.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in one of its reports claimed that the country’s unemployment rate rose from 14.2 per cent to 18.8 per cent in 2017. In its 2017 report, “Unemployment and Under Employment Report from 1st quarter to third quarter 2017’’, it stated that the total number of people in full-time employment (at least 40 hours a week) declined from 52.7 million in the second quarter of 2017 to 51.1 million in the third quarter. It went on to say that the unemployment rate increased from 14.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 16.2 per cent in second quarter of 2017 and 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017. The number of people who were in unemployment or underemployment increased from 13.6 million and 17.7 million respectively in the second quarter of 2017, to 15.9 million and 18.0 million in the third quarter of 2017.
NBS reported that the total unemployment and underemployment rate combined increased from 37.2 per cent in the previous quarter to 40.0 per cent in the third quarter. That is for the general outlook on unemployment and underemployment for all ages of the working population. However, the unemployment situation is worse for the youth that constitute a significant percentage of the population.
Youth unemployment rose to 52.65 per cent by fourth quarter 2017, from 49.7 per cent in the preceding quarter, which translates to 22.64 million persons aged between 15 and 35 years old who were either jobless or underemployed, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Its data showed that 7.9 million jobs were lost from January 2016 to September 2017; some four out of 10 Nigerians are jobless or underemployed. Its 18.8 per cent official jobless rate is believed to be the world’s third highest after South Africa’s 27.7 per cent and Greece’s 20.9 per cent by Q3 2018.
Though the active population in the country increased by 0.5 per cent within the period, over 2.9 million graduates and another five million semi-skilled workers also lost their jobs within this period. Meanwhile, by global consensus, Nigeria’s youth unemployment is put at 52.65 per cent. It is a figure that should give the federal and state governments as well as other policymakers real cause for concern.
To address the youth unemployment conundrum, the present administration packaged the N-power programme as a major job creation initiative. N-Power claimed that it has employed over 200,000 people. The government also claimed that it is using part of the N500 billion social investment scheme to provide credit to at least one million entrepreneurs, market women and artisans under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme. Also, about 12 million Nigerians have ventured into rice production in the last two years.It is obvious that despite the efforts of the current administration, the number of jobs created so far barely scratched the surface. Every year, thousands of secondary schools, polytechnics and universities’ graduates pour into the streets in search of non-existent jobs. And as the number of unemployed Nigerians grows daily, so does crime and criminality. From armed robbery to kidnapping, terrorism to insurgency, the country is bearing the brunt of decades of negligence of the job needs of Nigeria’s growing population.
In the opinion of this newspaper, the failure of policymakers to recognise that the youths, while they need more schools and universities, also need jobs when they leave school is at the root of the present youth unemployment that has become a security threat that requires urgent attention.
However, we consider it pertinent to emphasise that the traditional transition from schools and universities to the civil service is no longer tenable. Nations that are making progress focus their job creation policies on industrialization, manufacturing, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and services. These initiatives are driven by the private sector, with the government providing the enabling environment. The diversification of the economy from oil must be pursued with more intensity so that other sectors with potentials for job creation can be harnessed. This, in our view, is the practical way out if the nation must avert the looming danger youth unemployment constitutes.