The rate of unemployment in Nigeria has continued to generate debates among Nigerians locally and internationally. Most people in the country’s labour force are either unemployed or underemployed. The latest statistics on unemployment rate has been released by the National Bureau of Statistics. The report shows that Nigeria’s unemployment rate has increased from 27.1% to 33.3% in the fourth quarter of 2020. According to the report released recently, the figure is 6.1% higher than the 27.1% recorded in the second quarter last year:
“The number of persons in the economically active or working-age population (15 – 64 years of age) during the reference period of the survey, Q4, 2020 was 122,049,400. This is 4.3% higher than the figure recorded in Q2, 2020, which was 116.871, 186.”
A breakdown of the report shows that the total number of people with employment stood at 46.48 million while the underemployment rate was down by 20.6 per cent at 15.91 million.
Nigeria’s population is estimated at about 200 million. According to the National Population Commission, about half of the population is made up of young people between 15 and 34 years of age. Unfortunately, as the youth population grows, so does the unemployment rate.
At least two-thirds of unemployed youths are within the younger bracket of between 15 and 24 years of age. In terms of gender, available statistics show that a majority of the unemployed youth are female.
The report also revealed that the unemployment rate among rural dwellers was 34.5%, up from 28.2% in Q2, 2020, while urban dwellers reported a rate of 31.3% up from 26.4%.
Several factors may be responsible for the exponential rise in unemployment rate in Nigeria. There is a high population growth rate—3.5 per cent per annum—which accompanies an already large national population figure of over 200 million people. In addition, deficient school curricula and poor teaching/training skills have contributed to the failure of educational institutions to provide their students with appropriate skills to make them employable.
Since schools in rural areas are generally more deficient in infrastructure, teaching facilities, and teacher quality, compared to schools in urban areas, this may account for the high growth in rural unemployed youth. In fact, some experts suggest that the major jump in rural youth unemployment could be due to poor performance.
The challenges of building an employable workforce are increasingly becoming a front-burner issue. Many entrepreneurs have reported that a lot of vacancies remain unfilled because most applicants, even those with requisite paper qualifications are found wanting when it comes to actual job performance. The most frustrating aspect has been the dominant presence of a large pool of graduates with very poor critical thinking skills. This has made many job seekers not flexible enough to be trained for available positions, thus rendering them virtually unemployable.
In addition, there is also a lack of vibrant industries to absorb all the available competent graduates. Many commentators feel the country’s infrastructural deficit and various debilitating structural adjustment programmes (SAP) implemented by Nigeria in the 1980s, led to the closure of many industries. A good number of people attribute this condition as the reason why the country is yet to fully recover. It is also well-known that the unemployment situation in Nigeria has been aggravated by flawed and inconsistent public policies on employment and education.
Successive governments in Nigeria have, over the years, introduced several measures to nip the problem of unemployment in the bud as the issue has become a significant public concern in the last three decades. Part of the initiative introduced during past military regimes in the country to address this challenge was to draft unemployed youth to public programmes such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), and the Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DIFRRI), which provided immediate but short-term direct jobs for participants interested in agriculture.
Intervention programs such as Poverty Alleviation Program, SURE-P, YOU-WIN, N-power, among others were also introduced in the last 20 years of civil rule to address the problems of unemployment in the country.
However, these intervention programmes have had a mixed impact on the unemployment situation of the country. While a number of intervention programmes addressed critical needs, others failed woefully to address the issue of unemployment. The management and administrative oversight of the programmes most times had been weak and sometimes problematic, perhaps because of multiple authorities (federal, state and local government agencies) managing them. Some have even been known to receive huge budgets that did not justify the limited results achieved.
Since it is unclear to what extent any given intervention may have reduced unemployment rate in aggregate, it may be helpful to think of effective policies as those which have delivered on their stated objectives. The sustainability of a programme could also be considered an indicator of success.
Analysts say that the problem of unemployment in Africa’s most populous country is unlikely to get better soon. The World Bank predicts that this problem will be aggravated by Nigeria’s last recession which was the worst in four decades and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Nigeria has also been badly hit by the fluctuating prices of the global oil market, given its dependence on the commodity as its biggest revenue source.
Bleak economic growth and the rise in unemployment will only compound the country’s long-running problem of lifting citizens out of poverty. Despite sustained high oil prices in the 2010s, Nigeria overtook India in 2018 as the country with the most people in extreme poverty.
Findings show that other problems associated with unemployment in Nigeria include widespread poverty, youth restiveness, high rate of social vices, and an increased crime wave.
If the unemployment problem is not addressed, apathy, hopelessness, and a revolution might be imminent. From the foregoing, there is the need for urgent intervention in the sensitive sectors of the economy such as power, education, industry, and agriculture. This is in order to create employment opportunities.
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