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Where are the job creation strategies?

“I’ve seen weapons of mass destruction in our cities. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction, homelessness, a weapon of mass destruction, racism, a weapon of mass destruction, fear, a weapon of mass destruction. We must disarm these weapons.”

–  DENNIS KUCINICH, speech to Democratic National Convention, July 28, 2004

“That all people are equal but some people are more equal than others is nowhere more true than in the experience of unemployment. Unemployment is not a price ‘we’ all have to pay to restructure the economy and hold down inflation. Presented in this way, the real story of unemployment is hidden — that it is the same people who are always at risk of unemployment in an inefficient labour market founded on structured inequalities of locality, sex, race, disability, and age.”

– EITHNE MCLAUGHLIN, preface and acknowledgements, Understanding Unemployment: New Perspectives on Active Labour Market Policies

With the economic crisis in Nigeria, a country long plagued by bifurcated economy, unemployment among all ages, particularly the youth unemployment that has reached an alarming rate, is grappling with unemployment policy conundrums. The quotes above fittingly apply today to the predicament of the country’s chronically unemployed, the youth and those holding degrees in various fields who are desperately seeking for a job to eke out a living.Without a doubt, unemployment in Nigeria is a weapon of mass destruction, whose immediate casualties are all around us. Compounded with the situation is the complete absence of visible strategies to create jobs being advanced by the policymakers.

One of the consequences of joblessness is the simmering resentment of the Nigerian youth that may lead to an uncontrollable chaos in the future. When people are frustrated and hopeless, they may resort to illegal activities to survive. In addition, there are other hidden effects of unemployment ranging from psychological and emotional to medical traumas.

The unemployed and underemployed, as well as their families are suffering immensely with no help from the federal, state, and local governments. With the unemployment, these families live in abject poverty with untreated medical and psychiatric issues.The situation in the country regarding joblessness is dire and widespread.

On my way to Nigeria two weeks ago, I met a guy, whose daughter completed her degree program in London some time ago and came back to Nigeria. Up till now his daughter has not found a job. One could sense the frustration in his voice as he was telling the story. His story is not an exception; it is a recurring one. In every family, the sad tale of massive unemployment is being told daily with intense frustrations. My nieces and nephews are still unemployed after graduating some years ago from various universities. Some of them,like in many other families, have gone back to pursue master’s degrees. Sadly, on completion of their advanced degrees, the jobs are still scarce to find.

The implication of the tales indicates that the unemployment rate in Nigeria may be over 45 percent based on anecdotal information. Where there are no accurate statistical data, supposition becomes the norm as the policy articulation lacks any seriousness. If there are no accurate and reliable data to capture the depth and breadth of unemployment in the country, policymakers would be working without direction. Therefore, the true picture of joblessness will be obscured by lack of knowledge of the situation.

Talking with Don Odunze, a recent graduate in chemistry, he narrated his ordeal as he spoke for many unemployed Nigerians, who have the capacity for a gainful employment, but could not find one. He began, “There have been millions of graduates and undergraduates in Nigeria, particularly the Nigerian youths, who are chronically unemployed. They could find job anywhere.

Finding a job, whether professional or menial ones, has been an impossible task and a difficult vision for these graduates. This phenomenon has dampened the dreams and aspirations of an average Nigerian youths whom are highly shattered and frustrated with high level of unemployment. This condition is currently eating up the marrows and bone of our country Nigeria.”

He continued, “Unemployment in Nigeria has found its way because of the purpose and the definition of leadership in Nigeria, we remain in a country where our political leaders, those in authority or in the position of leadership become self-interest driven, instead of serving the peoples interest. These officials have found it convenient to neglect the first priority of leadership which is community interest.

They steal public funds they should have invested to create employment, which would have had multiplier effects on the economy.” He emphasized, “The public funds which was meant for the creation of jobs and building factories that will be a source employment opportunities have been squandered by the corrupt politicians and now very many of are unemployed.”

“Our leaders have refused to accept the country’s chronic unemployment problems and they have deceptively downplayed the hardship it is causing us. Suffice to say that the unemployment challenges facing the country is compounded by the fact tens of thousands graduate each year without any hope of employment.”

Without a doubt, the future of these young adults is being mortgaged by those in the government who could not come up with policies that would address the endemic unemployment problems in the country. It is a discouraging situation that no visible job creation strategies are in place to help the jobless individuals. In this period, the problem of unemployment is compounded due to lack of resources for these individuals to travel home or purchase items for Christmas.

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Editor, Online: Ikenna Emewu