Unemployment is a situation where those willing and able to be productively engaged and fall within the labour force bracket cannot secure any job to do at a prevailing wage rate at a given period. Tackling youth unemployment is a vaulting ambition for successive governments in Nigeria, as it is a global challenge that forms the core economic policy plan in nearly all economies. Information from the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria estimates the labour force at 70 million people, while the unemployment rate stood at 33.3 per cent, while youth unemployment stood at 42.5 percent. These figures are not of interest to the average Nigerian, but crashing these figures to ensure there are productive activities to engage teeming youths remains the utmost priority and concern for Nigerians and the government. Countries like Qatar have an unemployment rate of 0.1 percent, Niger Republic stands at 0.5 percent, while Rwanda is estimated at 1 percent. More advanced economies like the United States, China and India stand at 3.9, 4.4 and 5.4 percent, respectively, indicating that Nigeria’s unemployment challenges can be addressed with innovative solutions.
When the government at all levels in Nigeria is committed to addressing youth unemployment, they must acknowledge the role of investment in education as the greatest and most sustainable way to tackle unemployment. The investment must be channelled to technical, vocational education, polytechnics and monotechnics to enable a transition from primary and secondary school levers to technical education centres to acquire modern practical and technological skills to be self-reliant. Nigeria’s education curriculum needs to be reviewed to ensure Nigerian graduates are properly trained to meet the ever-changing labour market. There is a need to restructure the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to become a hub for skill acquisition while accumulating the stipends paid monthly to one-off payments at the end of the scheme to encourage entrepreneurship. Special access to credit facilities should be encouraged for all interested corps members with their NYSC certificates as collateral.
There is a challenge for some highly skilled professionals engaged with multiple jobs simultaneously while many remain unemployed. There is an urgent need to introduce an employment code or pin to create a database and register those within the labour market to identify those engaged in multiple jobs and enforce legislation to declare it illegal. In addition, there is a need for the government to reduce the bureaucratic bottleneck involved in business registration to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially those with inclusive business potential. Furthermore, genuine efforts must be channelled to women’s economic empowerment in rural communities on 21st-century technological skills to become employable. Statistics show that women, especially married women, are the worst hit and face serious discrimination in cooperate environments due to family responsibilities that come with marriage and childbirth.
The government should declare a national emergency on acquiring technological skills to ensure learners acquire these modern skills at all levels of education. Modern and more advanced IT skills should be incorporated into the learning and teaching methodologies. Technology hubs and centres should be built in Nigeria’s 774 local government areas while creating a favourable business environment for investment. The government should address the challenges of poor power supply, multiple taxes, a lack of incentives for local entrepreneurs, and low financial inclusion. Addressing unemployment would require a multifaceted approach by economic planners and genuine commitment from the government. Investment in human capital development should be a vital approach to improve the employability of Nigerian youth, which could multiply into a good knowledge bank capable of exporting quality human resources to countries needing professionals in different fields of endeavour.