BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Global demand shift, brain drain and Nigeria’s employability problem

It has been two years since the pandemic hit the world in an unprepared shock to almost every sector there may be. Since then, there has been a major shift in the structure of production and international business.

Now more than ever, success in global or local business may be measured by the extent of digital adoption or transformation in the process of doing business and attendant focus has been dedicated to career lines around life and experimental sciences and coders. Global demand now continues to slow, albeit gradually, in favour of hard assets like oil and precious metals, and more room is being created for technologically inclined minds.

Much more compelling is the necessary adjustment of most business activities as they re-tailor their modus operandi to revolve around the attendant innovation that technology offers – basic finance has metamorphosed into fintech and other related services, technological adoption is now heavily present in the healthcare services industry, remote correspondence is now the order of the day in most organisations, educational services have now grown into full scale edutech framework, where moodle educational platforms and blended courses with online educational services providers have now become popular in many forward-looking institutions.

With the global shift in the way business operates and the need to resume a post-pandemic pause, many employers from different parts of the world are now inclined to recruit bright minds mostly in the finance, science and technology fields. While this may seem like a good way to resume a temporary shutdown after a worldwide health plague, the effect on many disadvantaged economies may be hardly reversible.

The brain drain that accompanies global demand for highly skilled labour in the priority sectors can have long-lasting effects, especially in developing nations where unemployment is rife. Admittedly, in the short run, international migration due to any cause can lead to educated unemployment in the home country. With more exits per skilled labourer, job openings, which require a high level of experience and skills, become available in the home country. However, Nigeria’s experience with this replacement opportunity has returned with a disappointing outcome. Many Nigerians lack the required skills or are unprepared to match up with the openings that have been created as a result of migration.

Read also: Cuba’s brain gain: How Nigeria can profit from doctors’ exodus

Numerous youths and able-bodied adults in Nigeria are structurally unemployed, not because there are no jobs, but because they simply cannot fit in. As global demand for skilled manpower and the ensuing gratifications that come with such opportunities sweep many highly trained and experienced Nigerians away abroad, home-based opportunities find a sluggish turnaround time in replacement arrangements, and some businesses have begun to soften the pedal on hiring standards in a disappointing response. Many banks and other finance firms, for instance, have begun lowering their minimum age and degree requirements as well as minimum experience duration, just to accommodate as many replacements as they can gather.

As a country with a highly educated and literate population, Nigeria’s experience with the employability problem should provoke hard questions about the state of the nation’s education sector. Already, a growing number of Nigerian graduates are fast becoming holders of postgraduate diplomas and full degrees but there still seems to be a high level of unemployment and underemployment in the country. Even with more domestic opportunities created as a result of the brain drain, many remain unemployable, and the labour market continues to contend with absorbing semi-skilled fits while employers bear the burden of retraining new entrants to make them worthy of the new responsibility.

Indeed, many Nigerians that have undergone re-training programmes in various business training schools lament the disconnect between formal educational experiences and the training they got to understand real-life, in-demand skills on the job. For this reason, and possibly more, many doubt the importance of four to six years of classroom experience in Nigerian institutions of higher learning. Even those that travel abroad to pick up jobs are usually required to undergo some re-training exercises, re-licensing examinations or some short-term diploma courses, just to rebrand them for the new environment and responsibility.

In all, the change in global demand for skilled employment has revealed Nigeria’s human capacity dilemma in terms of skills training as a result of the brain drain that it causes. Naturally, the brain drain should impose a temporary labour market distortion after which more opportunities in the affected sectors should benefit those initially unemployed. Skilled labour mobility can mirror a progressive society since the attractiveness of skilled workers from that region signals quality of education and experiences. However, many migrants from Nigeria whose skills are in high demand abroad have been known to spend fortunes on training and re-training themselves through several online courses, higher degrees from foreign institutions and a combination of other self-help initiatives.

Unfortunately, brain drain has further widened the unemployment gap, while leaving many businesses no choice but to downplay entry requirements and absorb some manageable few, with the hope that a re-training experience will gear them up appropriately.

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