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Youth Unemployment: Another Disaster Waiting

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Babatunde Raji Fashola, Minister of Works

 

-After 10 Years Of Unemployment, I Resort To Learning New Things To Earn A Living, Man Cries

-Government Jobs Are Difficult To Get Except You Buy Them-Shola Akintunde, Job Seeker 

-Unemployment In FCT Is Growing Geometrically, Kelvin Ike, Director of Statistics

 

Lukmon Akintola, Felix Igbekoyi, Justice Iyasere, Toyin Adebayo, Yaqoub Popoola, Christian Nwokocha

Lagos, Owerri, Asaba, Warri, Abuja, Ekiti

Youth unemployment is fast becoming a global trend, as countries all over the world have a varying percentage.

Economist considers unemployment rate as the number of people in the workforce divided by the number of people looking for jobs but not working.

This number does not include students and retirees due to the fact that they are not considered as looking for work. It also does not include discouraged workers, people who have given up on finding a job.

According to a research conducted by Statista, the global youth unemployment rate stood at 13.2 in 2019, the rate at which it had been since 2016. Prior to then, it fluctuated between 12. 9 and 13.1.

In 2017, Burkina Faso led the global unemployment chart with 77 percent. Basically, it meant that for every 100 members of the workforce, 77 did not have jobs at the time of the survey.

Other countries with a huge percentage in terms of unemployment as at 2017 included Syria with 50 percent, Senegal with 48 percent, Haiti with 40.6 and Kenya with 40 percent.

Djibouti also had an alarming unemployment rate with 40 percent, while Marshall Islands had 36 percent, and Namibia’s percentage stood 36.

Unemployment is not peculiar with African countries alone as it is also a problem in more developed countries although in less percentage.

In 2018, the unemployment rate in the United Kingdom (UK); was put at 4.1 percent, the lowest it has been since the mid-1970s.

Between 2000 and 2008, unemployment in the UK fluctuated between 4.8 and 5.7 percent, before it rose suddenly in 2009 to 7.6 percent. After peaking at 8.1 percent in 2011, the unemployment rate gradually declined before returning to the level seen in the early 2000s.

Statistics show that in the first quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate in the UK fell even further to 3.8 percent, before increasing slightly in the second quarter to 3.9 percent. This amounted to approximately 1.3 million unemployed people, which was around 700 thousand fewer than it was just five years earlier.

In Nigeria, the youth unemployment rate is also at an alarming rate with young men and women being pushed into the labour market annually randomly.

While it is naturally assumed that conflict is the main cause of migration leading to unemployment in developing countries, there are peculiarities with each and every country.

In 2012, the number of unemployed youths in Nigeria was put at about 11.1 million, 12.9 percent.

By the third quarter of 2018, it had risen to 23.1 percent of the workforce, up from 18.1 percent a year earlier. This is according to Statistician General of the National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria (NBSN), Yemi Kale.

Statistic from various states and Abuja, the capital of Nigeria make up these figures. The NBS put the rate of unemployed Abuja residents as 8.74.

The state of unemployment in the capital city of Abuja is better understood in the words of some of the city’s residents. 40 years old Stephen Acka said: “I have been unemployed for the past 10 years. Every effort to get another job is yet to yield fruit. I have to rely on learning new things in order to earn an income. The income though has not been regular, it is better than nothing.”

 25-year-old Grace Samuel stated that she has never had a steady job since graduating.  “I graduated over five years ago. Most of the companies I have been involved with either folded up or are unable to pay my salary at some point in time,” she said.

“I cannot say I have had any fantastic job. In Nigeria, you get jobs easily when you are connected. Government jobs are more difficult to get except you have someone that can help you or you buy the job,” Shola Akintunde said.

On his part, Sikiru Usman revealed that most of the jobs he has had have been in the private sector, but with ridiculous salaries. He now drives a Taxi in Abuja to make ends meet. Such are the experiences of a few residents of Abuja, but it is indeed a reflection of a bigger picture.

The alarming rate of unemployment in the FCT is also buttressed by the Director of Statistics, FCTA Department of Economic Planning Research and Statistics, Kevin Ike.

According to Ike, “Unemployment in Federal Capital Territory (FCT); is growing geometrically instead of arithmetically although none of the proportions are good. When it’s growing on a geometric proportion, it means it is growing at a supersonic speed. How did we get to this level? It is because of both Nigerians in the FCT and the city administrators. They were not prepared for it, we are not prepared to have this number of people looking for jobs in FCT, the jobs were not created.

“We don’t have seaports, no airport, what we have is just passenger airport and there are no industries.  Many people would want to invest in FCT. I think the bureaucracy of going into business here is something the government should look into. There should be a deliberate attempt to attract large industries, manufacturing industries, and corporate organisations in order to accommodate the number of school leavers who are looking for jobs here.

“FCT is the seat of government, so almost all the corp members who passed out don’t go anywhere; they stay in Abuja looking for greener pastures.  The rate of job seekers in the capital is alarming. All these politicians that come to Abuja, they don’t come to FCT alone they come with legions of men and women. So, Abuja will continue to be a host of all these job seekers until we are able to turn the city into both an administrative and business capital.

“A large portion of Abuja land should be dedicated to investors, especially large industries such as petrochemical companies, production companies, and marketing companies. Companies should also come in. We have a chunk of land for Agriculture and there is no mechanised means of Agriculture in FCT. If it continues like this, in the nearest future, people will start running from Abuja instead of running into Abuja. The rate of vices will grow to a level that they are going to pursue us from the city. The decentralisation of places like Maitama and Asokoro within the seat of power would also help,” Ike said.

The situation is no different in Delta State, a state located in the South-South region of Nigeria. The troubling reality was made vivid when the Delta State Government recently announced vacancies for 1000 classroom teachers specifically targeted at the riverine areas of the state.

For the 1000 vacancies, over 50,000 qualified persons applied. This is the true situation of things. The situation is not helped by the loss of jobs arising from hitherto buoyant businesses folding up.

Saturday INDEPENDENT’s visit to Premium Steel and Mines Limited formerly known as Delta Steel Company, Ovwian-Aladja confirmed the already known fact that there is a high percentage of unemployed youths in the state, as a heap of unsolicited applications from job seekers was seen in the office of the Human Resources Manager (HRM).

At McDermott Yard in Warri which used to house as many as 20 companies, the situation was not better, as the bubbling business location had turned a shadow of itself, with most of the companies shut down and their staffs plunged back into the labour market.

The situation has thus seen individuals with Masters Degree turning to tricycle riders, all in a bid to make ends meet.  The ugly picture of graduates turning tricycle drivers is common at Udu Local Government where an average of over 5000 commercial riders operates.

The unemployment rate in the state is also visible in the number of Nigerian graduates visiting the website of the Nigerian Federal Government, N-Power for a monthly stipends of N30,000,oo, while female graduates are forced into prostitution with some even leaving the country for places such as Italy where they can ply the trade internationally.

While it would be expected that the state government would be able to alleviate the problems of the people, it appears that it is beyond them.

Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeayin Okowa painted this picture recently when he said that the Federal government allocation to the state had dropped drastically from what it used to be, adding that a state which used to be paid N 7billion now gets N 3billion. He revealed that the present economic down tune, coupled with the debt profile of the state, which runs into N637.22 billion had not helped the situation.

Okowa was quoted saying: “I just learnt from the Accountant General of the state that this month allocation is about N3 billion. This cannot even pay the wage bill of workers. The low allocation is as a result of the recent pipeline vandalism in the state, this will also affect our allocation up to the month of August. This criminal act is destroying our state and preventing Deltans from enjoying the dividends of democracy to the fullest.

“It would be illogical for a state that is grappling to meet its payroll obligation to start employing more persons,” Okowa said, adding that his administration has done its best to meet up with its electoral promises through infrastructural development, and youth empowerment programmes as encapsulated in his SMART agenda.

Indeed, the Senator Okowa-led government has been diversifying the state’s economy via the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneur Programme (YAGEP) and the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) under which over 17,000 employment opportunities have been supposedly provided.

At a recent Orientation and Personal Effectiveness Workshop for trainees, the Executive Assistant to the Governor on Youth Monitoring and Mentoring, Eddy Mekwuye, represented by Senior Special Assistant to the Government on Youth Monitoring and Mentoring, Olorogun Frank Ozue, said the Governor’s vision was to take youths off the streets in order to create employment for them, curb youth restiveness and to build entrepreneurs that would drive the economy of the state.

He reiterated the state government’s commitment to monitoring and mentoring of trainees during training and after establishment to ensure sustainability of the programmes.

The trainees were enrolled in various STEP skills such as Catering and Confectionery; Decoration and Event Management; Fashion Design and Textile Design; Cosmetology (Skin and Facial Care); Hairdressing and Makeover, including Braiding; Information Technology Services (Open to youths with a minimum of OND/NCE; and Welding and Fabrication. Other skills are Electrical and Solar Works; Carpentry and Joinery; Tiling and Interlocking; Plumbing; Production of Cleaning Agents; POP, Screed-Making and Painting; and Audio-visual Services.

Aside from that, the government has also embarked on a weeding process of ghost workers in the state’s employ; a move which it has assured would yield results that will help the economy.

Despite this, there have been questions regarding the cancellation of created jobs such as EduMarshal and Environmental Marshals that were already playing significant role in the state.

If the situation is bad in Delta State, it is worse in Ekiti State, a state referred to as Civil Service State due to its lack of employment from industries, a state dominated by government-owned agencies and institutions.

With arguably the highest number of workforce in the South West, the state is said to have as high as 50,000 workers while almost same number of youths are also unemployed.

Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) remains the largest private employers of labour in the state with staff strength of about 3000.

The unemployment level is mirrored by the governor of the state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, when he decried the over 20,000 applicants into the University Basic Education Board (SUBEB).

Seeking solutions to the problem of huge unemployment in the state, the governor, like his counterparts in other states advocated entrepreneurial skills and knowledge-based economy to address the sharp shortfall in jobs, while allegedly considering the sack of some of the state’s staff.

Reacting to the move by the state government, the Chairmen of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Com. Sola Adigun, Nigerian Labour Congress (NBC), Com. Kolapo Olatunde and Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), Com Kayode Fatomiluyi, Adigun advocated the an increase in internally generated revenues.

“Government must look inwards and increase its IGR. Nigeria Customs Service has increased its monthly revenue generations, by plugging all loopholes. There is also increment in oil supply at the international level, all these will help Ekiti economy in 2020, as sacking civil servants is not the best option,” he said.

The NLC chairman, Com Olatunde and his counterpart in JNC, Com. Fatomiluyi advised that government shouldn’t perceive sack as panacea to irregular payment of salaries.

It is also not different in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria, as residents of the zone are groaning over the high rate of unemployment too. This is despite the years of resourceful efforts and entrepreneurship drives by different governments.

According to the former Minister of National Planning Commission, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman who spoke during the opening of Gross Domestic Computation in Nigeria for the South East located in Awka, Anambra State had the lowest unemployment rate with 10% in 2012, while Enugu State recorded 18.7% in 2018. The situation has since increased leaving young school leavers on the streets looking for jobs to help family members who spent their hard-earned resources to get them educated.

In the South East, residents of cities like Aba, Nnewi, Onitsha appears to be self-sufficient judging from the volume of commerce and industrialisation from the area. These are cities where everybody seems to have something doing to earn a living.

However, the story is different in states such as Awka, Abakiliki, Enugu, Owerri and Umuahia known for Civil Service jobs. Interestingly, there are also millions of youth and others above 50 years looking for jobs.

While it might be hard to show adequate data to confirm the alarming rate of unemployment in the South East, one fact remains that universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and vocational schools in the zone like other zones in Nigeria continue to push new graduates into the labour despite the fact that previous graduates continue to seek jobs.

In Ebonyi State, the commissioner for Information, Barrister Uchenna Orji said the state has an office for Planning and Statistics responsible for issues relating to employment and unemployment.

Speaking on the state’s unemployment level, Orji said: “The unemployment rate had reduced to 30%, stating that the state had been reduced to a construction site and people are usefully engaged. You can determine this when you check the crime rate. When there is employment, the crime rate reduces.

“We have empowerment programmes of government and attitudinal change. You can also measure this with the outstanding records of unemployment. Over N7m has been earmarked for children out of schools. We have a database and it targeted at University graduates, vocational, entrepreneur, technicians and Craftsmen.”

While statistics for unemployment in Abia State are not readily available, the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu is known to have inaugurated “Education for Employment Scheme,” a move to reduce unemployment and elevate Small and Medium Scale Entreprises (SME). While some say that the move has yielded results, others maintain that an unemployment rate of 17.5% as at April 2019 is not good enough.

Like many other states in Nigeria, Imo State has also not feared better, as the state’s established office for Directorate for employment which was set up in 1988, and attached to the office of the then military governor to create and supplement the efforts of the Federal Government at reducing unemployment appears not to have yielded any meaningful result.

Meant to help the youth to articulate, implement and create self-employment jobs that will form the basis for self-reliance, our correspondent could not find out from the office of the state statistics what the official record of unemployment was. However, unofficial sources put it as the highest in the South East at 31.3%.

While it might be difficult to talk about total eradication of youth unemployment and individual states continue to advocate self-employment, one fact which stares Nigerians both old and young in the face remains that there is an alarming rate of youth unemployment which is likely to trigger other negative and damning vices, even as more people not considered youths continue to seek jobs to do.
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