One of the greatest challenges facing the Nigerian economy is unemployment, which has maintained a rising trend over the years.
Viewing this from the perspective of the recent events in the Middle East, where unemployment and poverty are among issues that played a key role in the uprising, one can only conclude that Nigeria’s unemployment poses a threat to development, security and peaceful co-existence.
Adoption of untimely economic policy measures can impact unemployment, for example the demise of the small scale and cottage industries which operated in both formal and informal sectors. A 1986 programme that devalued the domestic currency led to collapse of many emergent domestic firms. This resulted in the loss of many jobs. These policies were designed to jump start the growth of the economy, but some of the policy packages became outright inimical to the system due to wrong timing.
There is also the wrong impression of students about the place of technical and vocational education. An enduring societal bias means a large number of job seekers lack practical skills that could give them self-employment.
The agricultural sector was the leading provider of employment in Nigeria in the ’60s and ’70s, when the sector provided employment for more than 60 per cent of the Nigerian population. However, in the wake of oil discovery the attention on this anchor was gradually drawn away to the oil sector where employment capacity is very low. Even with the expansion of the industry, unemployment has continued to grow at an alarming rate.
It is an established economic reality that the size of the workforce directly influences a country’s GDP. Not only does the workforce produce manufactured goods or services or agricultural produce in direct proportion, but also brings in its wake increasing purchasing power, which in turn fuels economic growth. Thus unemployment contributes to a reduced potential to spur a country’s GDP.
With growing youth unemployment, the divide between the rich and the poor grows, resulting in social tensions which could affect the entire fabric of a community, state and country (Boko-Haram). It can contribute to drug abuse, but the most direct impact on the economy of an unproductive labour force is lost output in terms of goods and services. With no income tax to collect and the loss of receipts from indirect taxes such as the value added tax, the government takes in less in tax revenue.
Young men and women, who have put in a decade or two in schools and colleges, have dreams and aspirations. These are dreams of securing satisfying jobs following their years of struggle, meeting basic necessities of life, graduating to comfort and dignity and, eventually, enjoying the luxuries of life. The trauma of seeing their dreams shattered week after week, month after month, can and does lead to deep psychological scars that are very difficult to face at a young age. These can impact any individual’s self-esteem and can lead to clinical depression.
When unemployment grows in a community, dissatisfaction with the incumbent government follow. This, in turn, leads to frequent changes in governments or formation of unsteady coalitions. Neither is healthy for long term stable economic policies, as the situation could lead to a vicious circle of political changes.
In offering solutions to problems of unemployment, it is necessary to summarise the causes of unemployment. Unemployment in Nigeria stems from unequal wages and lack economic infrastructure such as electricity, railway, roads and effective communications between the government and the citizenry.
The economy of the country depends only on crude-oil, without any effort by our government to diversify. Concern about security and corruption discourages both local and foreign investors. Against this backdrop, the following recommendations are made:
The government should introduce a welfare package for the unemployed rather than wasting existing resources. All governments should work together to eliminate insecurity in the country. This will encourage foreign private investors to come, and likewise local investors.
Governments at all levels may also go into partnership with private individuals to establish industries, with the private partner providing the driving force. Local and state governments should similarly collaborate with meaningful private farmers to modernise agriculture, which has a large capacity to reduce joblessness.
Finally, the government should enact a law that will automatically employ the best youth corpers wherever they serve.
Reach me on Twitter @jonathanugiagbe
About me: I am an easy-going person who takes people for who they are regardless. I like reading, travelling and table tennis.
My objective is to work with existing staff and facilities, contributing the best of my ability and quota so as to improve organisational objectives and achieve management goals and targets. Currently, am a blogger and a web designer.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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