Reuben Hopo

According to a 2017 Q3 report of the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria recorded its highest ever aggregate unemployment rate rising from 14.2% in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 18.8%. The monumental increase occurred despite the fact that all tiers of governments as well as the Organized Private Sector, OPD, generated additional 1.2 million jobs, which thus put the estimated labour population at 85. 1% for the same period.

The indices also revealed that the number of people within the labour force that were unemployed or underemployed increased drastically from 13.6 million and 17.7 million in the second quarter to 18.8 million in the third quarter. Analysis of these figures shows that the number of women within the labour force (aged 15-64) who were willing, able and actively seeking for job but unemployed was 21.2% while that of men was 16.5%. Thus, the total number of unemployed and underemployed put together increased from 37.2% in the previous quarter to 40% in the third quarter.

Also, the youth unemployment rate under the third quarter increased to 33.10% and represents the highest ever in the country. A contra-distinction of youth unemployment across a few countries between the third and fourth quarters of 2017 to February 2018 for instance revealed that, Spain has the highest number of unemployment with 35.50% followed by Nigeria 33.10%, and in descending order Italy having 32.80%; France 21.60%; Turkey 19.20%; Euro Area 17.7%; Australia 13.30%; India 12.90%; United Kingdom 12%; Canada 11.10%; South Korea 9.60%; United State 9%; Netherland 7.20%; Germany with 6.20% and Japan 4.20%

It could be reasonably affirmed that one of the scenarios that plunged the country into recession in the second quarter of 2016 was its lingering unemployment situation. Now that the country has exited the economic conundrum, government at all levels need to pay dire attention to mass employment generation to be able to rejuvenate a sound and virile economy that is buoyant, able to make living affordable for her population and most importantly cushion the inflation on the citizenry.

It is in this direction that Lagos State has been consistent and emphatic through the building of strong institutions that encourage job creation. The Lagos State government has clearly reached another milestone by institutionalizing a framework for mass employment in the State with the establishment of the Lagos state Employment Trust Fund.

The agency has succeeded in helping Lagos residents in establishing over 6000 micro-small and medium enterprises with a total loan grant of almost N5 billion to beneficiaries, who are mostly artisans, entrepreneurs and traders. Taking a cue from this proactive effort, there is higher possibility that when other stakeholders provide maximum opportunities for more Nigerians to have access to gainful employment, it will inevitably result in stronger economic growth and enhanced revenue for governments.

In the same vein, the creation of the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment by the Lagos State government in tackling the employability of many jobless compatriots has been laudable for achieving positive results.

The Ministry since its creation has accelerated synergies with the private sector in training and retraining artisans to upscale their skills, so that they would be more accessible to the global market. Graduate Internship Programme by the Ministry has also enhanced quality of life of many graduates who applied to gain the needed work skills and ethics required by the private sector. Most of them have been offered gainful employment while others now have the skills to operate as entrepreneurs.

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The huge investments in road infrastructure in the state are also genuine commitments towards provision of jobs for thousands of people in related fields. The Government’s ‘‘Ready, Set, Work’’ initiative has also led to the inculcation of entrepreneurial spirit among school leavers. The State Government’s several tourism and sporting initiatives have equally opened up new frontiers of business opportunities to a lot of people with special skills and talents for self employment.

Also, the State Government’s investments in agriculture have greatly enhanced job creation as well as food security in the State.
In the same light, equipping critical agencies with high propensity for employment such as the Lagos State Printing Corporation, which was equipped in 2017 with hi-tech digital machines, has sustained a sizeable number of workforce among whom are specialists and other categories of workers who earned their living because of government’s strategic intervention in investing in state-of-the-art equipment that now gives the corporation, a genuine corporate image above other peers in the industry.

The printing corporation being a training partner to the National Directorate of Employment since 1987, is now better equipped to offer trainees quality skills and experience with new global best technology that enrich their marketability for job prospects. The same advantage is also enjoyed by students from the state’s technical colleges on industrial attachments.

The International Labour Organisation in its recent report has shown that Africa would face a rise in its unemployment situations in the current year due to scarcity of decent work. In Nigeria, with steady rise population, all tiers of governments should exigently strengthen diversification to reap economic growth and employability advantage for millions of Nigerians that are out of job. Provision of mass employment is the only recipe for government to enhance national cohesion and sense of belonging for all Nigerians.

On a final note, to forestall looming disaster in the country, governments at all levels need to ingeniously devise programmes that would incorporate the youths into the centre stage of nation building process in the country. For this to be effectual, the course of action must commence with a fundamental revamping of the education sector. We need to alter the curriculum of our tertiary institutions to do away with courses that no longer fit into present day’s socio-economic reality.

Indeed, we need to lay more emphasis on technical education as well as courses that de-emphasise the craze for non-existing white collar jobs. Similarly, we should make effort to promote social entrepreneurship among the youths.
This could be done through the establishment of internship programmes aimed at giving youths the opportunity to learn valuable skills in contemporary fields such as information communication technology, fund development, public relations, program medevelopment, management and much more.

Equally, corporate organisations, NGO’s, individuals and government institutions should be committed to mentoring of the youths.

Hopo writes from Alausa, Ikeja-Lagos