The government should move fast to curtail the scourge
The chairman of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Employment Programme (Sure-P), Dr. Christopher Kolade, has bemoaned the rising rate of unemployment in the country, saying that no fewer than 40 million Nigerians are without jobs. Even before Dr. Kolade spoke, Nigerians were already aware of the dire situation as unemployment rate in the country has been increasing over the years. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s unemployment rate averaged 14.60 per cent from 2006 until 2011, reaching an all time high of 23.90 per cent in December 2011. The NBS measures unemployment rate by the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force.
In its Economic Report on Nigeria released in May this year, the World Bank noted that “Nigeria’s annual growth rates that average over seven per cent in official data during the last decade place the nation among the fastest growing economies in the world noting that the growth has been concentrated particularly on trade and agriculture, which would suggest substantial welfare benefits for many Nigerians. Nevertheless, poverty reduction and job creation have not kept pace with population growth, implying social distress for an increasing number of Nigerians. Progress towards the fulfilment of many of the Millennium Development Goals has been slow, and the country ranked 153 out of 186 countries in the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index.”
According to the World Bank, “job creation in Nigeria has been inadequate to keep pace with the expanding working age population. The official unemployment rate had steadily increased from 12 per cent of the working age population in 2006 to 24 per cent in 2011. Preliminary indications are that this upward trend continued in 2012.”
In a similar observation in June, the Honorary International Investors Council (HIIC) pointed to what it called “the growing unemployment rate and the rising number of poor skilled workforce” in the country. The Council, headed by Baroness Lynda Chalker, was inaugurated in 2004 as a presidential advisory body to attract global financial players into the Nigerian economy. Although not much positive impact could be attributed to HIIC’s efforts in Nigeria, the Council urges the government “to improve on its synergy with the other tiers of government and the industry in order to build basic education geared towards enhancing capacity of the workforce for industrialisation of the economy.”
It goes without saying that the nation’s unemployment rate has become a source of concern to government. Only recently the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, admitted that the spate of unemployment was giving her sleepless nights. Quoting the National Bureau of Statistics, the minister declared that “each year, about 1.8m young Nigerians enter into our labour market and we need to ensure that the economy provides jobs for them.”
Okonjo-Iweala blamed the ineffectiveness of government developmental programmes on the fact that Nigeria lacked the institutional capacity to harness the gains of the programmes. In her words, “When you look at Nigeria, for over 50 to 60 years, we’ve been working without the key institutions that some other people have. We keep making stopgap solutions. For 50 years, we didn’t have a Bureau for Public Procurement; for 50 years, we didn’t have a Debt Management Office. So many of the institutions that we have now are new and if you stand back, you’ll see there are still many gaps. It is now our job to try to fill those gaps.”
The faster government moves in that direction the better as we have seen the concomitant effect of youth unemployment manifests itself in various forms across the country. Kidnapping, armed robbery and even militancy in the Niger Delta and to some extent the Boko Haram menace could be identified as some of the negative outcome of unemployment.