Lamentation over rising unemployment rate

By Job Osazuwa

As published on its website, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) puts youth unemployment rate in Nigeria at 42.5 per cent, while youth underemployment rate stands at 21 per cent.

Pundits have described these figures as worrisome even as some others argue that the unemployment situation is more pathetic and worse than what is captured by the NBS.

According to a public affairs analyst, Mr. Kenneth Okechukwu, massive youth employment, is what Nigeria needs at this moment to cause a sharp turnaround in the economy.

“We have wasted many decades and allowed this unemployment rate to keep soaring. I don’t believe that our youths are lazy. It is evident that many Nigerians are willing to work but there is no opportunity for them to display this willingness. It is not surprising seeing Nigerians doing excellently well abroad.

“We have the human capital in abundance but governments at all levels need to take the bull by the horns in this campaign and economic reawakening. The cost of production in Nigeria is too high, which scares investors from establishing their businesses in Nigeria. Let’s not forget that the more industries in a country, the more people that are employed and vice versa.

“Therefore, the government must make the environment friendly for investments to thrive. Small and medium-scale businesses have the capacity to absorb more than 70 per cent o the working population, but these are the types of businesses that easily collapse in Nigeria. Many factors are responsible for this phenomenon.

“However, I believe that it is not a hopeless situation if our leaders have the political will to do the right thing,” he said.     

In his contribution, a former chairman of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Lagos Mainland District Society (LMDS), Mr Cyprian Nwuya, told the reporter that the rising level of unemployment in the country could be traced to lots of factors.

He mentioned one of them as the collapse of the manufacturing sector, which hitherto was the largest employer of labour, where people were needed to man the various production processes. He explained that through those industries, a good number of people were taken off the streets.

Nwuya said:“In the ’70s and 80s, a good number of companies like President Clothing, Aswani Industries, Asaba Textiles and Onitsha Textiles, among others were in full operation, creating both direct and indirect employment opportunities. Commerce and other ancillary services were booming. Unfortunately, the energy sector started collapsing and factories cannot effectively and profitably run on generators. Gradually, the manufacturing sector collapsed. Our youths were thrown out of jobs. Some ended up as motorcycle riders in search of livelihoods.

“There came an increased number of rent seekers. As a result of the challenges in running factories, people diverted to areas where they make huge money with little or no effort. Some of these areas were the emergence of bureau de change, all manner of finance houses, insurance businesses and so on. Although regulations by government have helped to stem the tide, it must be noted that entrepreneurs in this sector employ less than one percent of the employable youths.

“It is also painful seeing government’s policies somersaulting. Development of our steel industries would have contributed immensely in sustaining the manufacturing sector. Unfortunately, lack of vision on the part of the government resulted in the abandonment of the steel development plan. Unsustainable government involvement in business that led to setting up of factories like Volkswagen factory, Steyr, Leyland and others without realizing the bureaucratic nature of government are examples of the policy summersaults.

“Moreover, government was developing the educational sector through establishment of more tertiary institutions and encouraging private ones without planning for the absorption of the products of those institutions. This is another example of policy mismatch.

“There is clear absence of enabling environment. As it is often said, government has no business being in business. Government is expected to provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are left alone to shoulder the challenges of being in business. They provide all the facilities and infrastructures themselves.  Only a very few can absorb the challenges and this has resulted in the shortage of employers of labour that our country face today.

“Due to the above shortcomings, Nigerian businessmen found it a lot easier and cheaper to import any kind of goods instead of producing them locally; thus putting pressure on our foreign exchange reserves and worsening the unemployment situation.

“The only way out of this problem is for the government to, first and foremost, fix the energy problem of the country. Secondly, the government is to encourage small scale manufacturers through provision of industrial clusters with the necessary infrastructure.

“Some people are of the view that funding is one of the prerequisites for increased job creation which leads to sustainable growth in the economy. I see this as disconnect because where the environment is very hostile and challenging, whatever amount of fund or funds provided to entrepreneurs will over time go down the drains. Therefore, the operating environment must be friendly before the funds can make meaningful impact in job creation.”

The symbiotic relationship between insecurity and joblessness, especially when the youths remain idle for too long becomes more obvious. This reinforces the popular saying that no meaningful development can take place without peace and security. There is no gainsaying that the unemployment situation might continue to get worse as long as insecurity persists in the country.

In September, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, raised the alarm that the rising rate of unemployment portends danger for the country.

In a summit in Abuja, he said: “We are in trouble as a country. We are in trouble and anybody who tells you he doesn’t know we are in trouble is lying to himself.

“We are facing a problem that is cyclic, one begat the other. It is left for you and me, the elite, to decide to save ourselves, save our children and save our country.

“If we keep on with these symptoms, buy ammunition, bomb these people, bomb kidnappers, bomb Boko Haram, you will be wasting resources. If you had prevented it, it would cost you less. We must give education to these people at the grassroots.

“Those who can’t get an education, we must provide them jobs so that they can fend for themselves. They can put a roof over their heads.”

Lamenting his travails while he searched for job for 14 years after he graduated from Auchi Federal Polytechnic, Edo State, Mr. Victor Oghenekeno described the Nigerian society as killer of dreams.

“I graduated in 2007 and I have been searching for job in the last 14 years. I couldn’t find a job in Lagos, I had to relocate to my hometown in Delta State to start life anew,”  he said.

The post Lamentation over rising unemployment rate appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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