In this piece , IFEANYI ONUBA examines the unemployment crisis facing the country and what the government needs to do in order to reposition the economy on the path of sustainable growth
From official statistics, the rising unemployment rate in the country has become a source of concern. The labour statistics report released by the National Bureau of Statistics, for instance , showed that between January and September 2017 , about 4 . 07 million Nigerians became unemployed .
The bureau in the report stated that the number of Nigerians that became unemployed rose from 11 . 92 million in the first quarter of 2017 to 13. 58 million and 15 . 99 million in the second and third quarters respectively .
It said that between the second quarter and third quarter, the number of economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years of age ) increased from 110 . 3 million to 111 . 1 million .
The NBS report said the increasing unemployment and underemployment rates implied that although the Nigerian economy is officially out of recession , domestic labour market is still fragile .
It added that economic growths in the past two quarters in 2017 had not been strong enough to provide employment in Nigeria ’ s domestic labour market .
The report reads in part, “The labour force population increased from 83. 9 million in Q 2 2017 to 85. 1 million in Q 3 2017 . The total number of people in full – time employment (at least 40 hours a week ) declined from 52 . 7 million in Q 2 2017 to 51. 1 million in Q 3 2017 .
“ The unemployment rate increased from 14 . 2 per cent in Q 4 2016 to 16. 2 per cent in Q 2 2017 and 18. 8 per cent in Q 3 2017 .
“ The number of people within the labour force who are unemployed or underemployed increased from 13 . 6 million and 17. 7 million respectively in Q 2 2017 , to 15 . 9 million and 18. 0 million in Q 3 2017 .
“ Total unemployment and underemployment combined increased from 37 . 2 per cent in the previous quarter to 40 per cent in Q 3 2017. ”
It said that during the third quarter of 2017, 21 . 2 per cent of women within the labour force that were between the ages of 15 years and 64 years and willing, able , and actively seeking work were unemployed , compared with 16. 5 per cent of men within the same period .
The NBS noted in the report that in the third quarter of the year , 16 . 4 per cent of rural and 23. 4 per cent of urban dwellers within the labour force were unemployed . It added that the rate of unemployment was increasing at a slightly faster rate for urban dwellers than it was for their rural counterparts.
“ Underemployment is predominant in the rural areas, 26. 9 per cent of rural residents within the labour force in Q 3 2017 , are underemployed , compared to nine per cent of urban residents within the same period .
“ For the period under review , Q 3 , 2017 , the unemployment rate for young people stood at 33. 1 per cent for those aged 15 to 24 , and 20 . 2 per cent for those aged 25 to 34 , ” it added .
In terms of geographical spread , the NBS said in the report that as at the end of the third quarter, Rivers State reported the highest unemployment rate at 41. 82 per cent, followed by Akwa -Ibom (36. 58 per cent ), Bayelsa State (30. 36 per cent ), Imo state (29. 47 per cent) and Kaduna State (28. 96 per cent ).
It added that the unemployment population were heavily distributed in Southern states , North- Eastern states , North – Western states especially Kaduna and Sokoto , and two Central states , , Nasarawa and Plateau.
It explained that South -Western states including Oyo , Ogun and Lagos which have large labour forces reported relatively low unemployment rates .
Comparing Nigeria’ s third quarter’ s unemployment rate with the international rates , the report stated that Nigeria ranked 28th among other countries .
Against this backdrop , finance and economic experts on Friday warned that the situation may get worse if something urgent was not done to change the rising unemployment rate.
They said the combined forces of double – digit inflation , high unemployment rate and a fragile Gross Domestic Product growth which is still below the rate of population growth may conspire to prevent any significant economic improvement .
The President , Institute of Productivity and Business Innovation Management , Mr. Remi Dairo, said the magnitude of jobs created in the economy has not been sufficient to meet the ever – growing labour market , thus resulting in the continuous rise in the level of unemployment in the country.
The huge number of unemployment, he noted , was a reflection of the current economic realities as only few businesses were growing and employing while many others were shedding jobs .
He advocated a comprehensive education policy that would help to address the skill gaps in the country , noting that there was an urgent need to close the existing gaps between the extant programmes of educational institutions and the requirements in the industry .
This , according to him , could be achieved through the restructuring of the educational system to meet the present and future needs of the country.
He said , “ The lack of productive skills in both the private and public sectors is one of the major reasons for the country’ s under development and there is need for a comprehensive education policy that would help to address the skill gaps in the country.
“ In order to close the existing gaps in skills between the extant programmes of educational institutions and the requirements in the industry , the government needs to restructure the educational system to meet the present and future needs of the country.
“ While the potential of the economy is so huge, the requisite skills for young minds to match the pace of this growth are inadequate and this is one of the causes of unemployment.
“ We have to be productive as a nation . Productivity is not just a policy on paper; it should be practicable for every Nigerian so that we can maximize our output . ”
Also commenting , a developmental economist , Odilim Enwagbara , said in a telephone interview that a liquid foreign exchange market coupled with the Federal Government ’ s increased investment in the value chain segment of the agriculture sector would unlock the job creation potential of the economy .
He said , “ This country cannot develop without those who are passionate and ready to show us the unconditional ways of dealing with our fundamental economic problems . Let ’ s know that economic development is 70 per cent political decisions and 30 per cent economics.
“ Agriculture, particularly food processing , can create a lot of jobs because we don’ t need to import raw materials and it costs little or nothing to get food processed , we can process a lot of cassava and turn it into so many products and this will create a lot of jobs for the people .
“ To drive economic growth , there is need for investment in infrastructure. Without improving infrastructure, there is no way you can expect growth in an economy because industrialisation which is an essential way of creating jobs in an economy needs to be supported by infrastructure. ”
A former Managing Director , Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation , Ganiyu Ogunleye , explained that while the country may have been out or recession , there were structural challenges that needed to be addressed to improve the momentum to creating jobs.
He said , “The fact that we are out of recession is not yet uhuru as we still have some fundamental problems in our economy .
“ The structure of the economy itself is a challenge because we have relied heavily on the oil sector and efforts are on to diversify the economy . This cannot happen overnight; it ’ s going to take time .
“ So , for us to sustain our economy particularly now that we are out of recession , there should be a focus on agriculture which can lead to food sufficiency, create a lot of jobs and also provide raw materials for the industrial and manufacturing sectors . ”
The Director- General , Industrial Training Fund , Mr Joseph Ari , said the agency would increase its collaboration with both the public and private sectors this year so as to equip more Nigerians with skills for employability and entrepreneurship .
Ari said the modern skills acquisition programme would help to stem the current wave of illegal migration , especially by the youth that has culminated in loss of lives and enslavement of thousands of productive Nigerians.
He said there was need to take the issue of youth unemployment seriously , adding that if serious action was not taken , the problem would further escalate going by projection that by 2050 , Nigeria ’ s population would have grown to about 500 million .
The ITF boss added if equipped with the requisite skills, the large population would become advantageous to the country.