A few days before leaving office, the immediate past Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, confirmed the looming threat about the country’s gradual slide into a higher realm of unemployment.
The pronouncement coming from an insider within government circle speaks much about the reality on ground, a reality that other government officials would always want to deny or parry.
Ngige’s outcry is not too far from the series of reports that had been churned out by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on the growing unemployment figure despite Federal Government’s claim to providing conducive environment for investment to thrive.
According to Ngige, the country’s unemployment rate could reach 33.5 per cent by 2020 from the current rate of 23.1 per cent. The threat is becoming alarming for the fact that in a dispensation where N18,000 (now N30,000) was the minimum wage the country had to contend with a rate as high as 23 per cent coupled with underemployment of 16.6 per cent as reported by the NBS.
Prior to the current alarm, the NBS had stated that the number of persons in the labour market increased from 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017 to 90.5 million in the third quarter of 2018. The total number of people classified as unemployed increased from 17.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 20.9 million in the third quarter of 2018.
Out of this 20.9 million person classified as unemployed as of the third quarter of 2018, the bureau said 11.1 million did under 20 hours a week to be officially classified as employed while 9.7 million did absolutely nothing.
The economically active or working-age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased from 111.1 million in Q3, 2017 to 115.5 million in Q3, 2018. The number of persons in the labour force (i.e. people who are able and willing to work) increased from 75.94 million in Q3 2015 to 80.66 million in Q3 2016 to 85.1 million in Q3, 2017 to 90.5 million in Q3, 2018.
From the data, it is obvious that the scale of increase has been steady without any decline.
As issues bordering on the growing trend unfold, it further amplifies the failure of various government social intervention programmes since Nigeria gained independence targeted at reducing joblessness and eradicating poverty.
Besides poor implementation of programmes, mismanagement of resources/allocation has been identified as some of the factors responsible for growing joblessness. It is an irony that states in the Niger Delta region as at today holds the highest number of unemployed in the country.
The South-South has a total of 16.7 million (second-largest) labour force in the country and the highest unemployment rate of 32 per cent in third quarter of 2018. This represents about 5.38 million unemployed people in the region.
Further breakdown of the report shows that Akwa Ibom State recorded the highest unemployment rate of 37.7 per cent, followed by Rivers State with 36.4 per cent.
Even more disheartening is the fact that from 1972 till date, about 14 different programmes to boost employment have been implemented with no noticeable result. They include the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), implemented between 1972 and 1973.
There is also the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), with the N-Power agenda, which is ultimately supposed to contribute to the creation of jobs for young Nigerians. Despite being on the agenda since 2017, and embedded in the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, unemployment rate still remains on the increase, indicating high resilience against the intervention efforts.
Ultimately, what the government failed to do is neglecting practical and more engaging programmes that are capable of taking the youth off the streets and getting them engaged. For instance, overlooking or undermining the entertainment industry remains one of the undoing of the current administration.
The Nigerian film industry otherwise known as Nollywood is globally recognised as the third largest film industry in the world after United States’ Hollywood and Indian’s Bollywood. In 2016, it surprisingly contributed about 2.3 per cent, representing N239 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is one of the priority sectors identified in the ERGP of the Federal Government with a planned $1 billion in export revenue by 2020.
Despite these potentials and the attraction it holds for teeming Nigerian youths, the Federal Government has done nothing other than slowing down the momentum the sector gathered during the previous administration when a whopping $200 million was set aside to encourage stakeholders in the sector.
Even though President Muhammadu Buhari made promises to the Nigerian creative industry during his presidential campaign, not much has been recorded in the area of encouragement for an industry with a very expansive value chain and has been surviving barely on the initiative of the founders and the zeal of youths who ply the trade to eke out a living with no support from government. Priority should be given to the sector.
To stem the tide of unemployment, we advise that the Federal Government redirect its priority to working on the nation’s infrastructure especially the power sector to enable more people become self-employed.
Besides encouraging youths in their lawful engagements, we advise that government should also intensify effort at combating the growing insecurity across the country so as to allow room for businesses to thrive.
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