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OPINION: Unemployment, Skill Acquisition And Functional Education

By Jide Ayobolu

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Director-General of the Industrial Trust Fund (ITF), Sir Joseph Ari, has linked the unemployment of over 20 million Nigerians to their failure to acquire requisite skills as well as a penchant for white-collar jobs. Ani, who expressed this view at the 1st National Skills Summit held in Abuja recently, said that to reduce the growing number of the employed in the country, the mindset and the perception that hands-on skills are for a certain group of Nigerians has to change.

According to human resource development expert, there is a disconnection between the schools and the needs of the industries, leading to a situation where it is not uncommon to hear employers lament the un-employability of graduates of our tertiary institutions. The ITF boss said there is the absence of a reliable Labour Market Information (LMI) that would have guided Nigerians in career choices and institutions of learning on industry needs. “Consequently, institutions of learning and human capacity development institutions work on a whim, in the dark and without any form of guidance. The effect of this is that institutions train potential workers in skills that are not needed by the labour market,” he said.

The Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Yalwaji Katagum, said rising unemployment has accentuated the rising rate of insecurity in the country. Katagum said to address the insecurity challenges, Nigeria will first of all have to create jobs by equipping Nigerians with skills while also striving to align the educational system to the current needs of the country by making skills acquisition and entrepreneurship training the focal point. “Skills acquisition has become the currency of countries desirous of development in the 21st century. The T-BRICS nations – Turkey, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – provide ready examples,” the minister said.

ITF has said, it needed N500 investment to boost skills acquisition, it noted that developmental programmes of most of the industrialised countries like USA, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Russia and China were built around institutions like ITF, adding that, “unfortunately, we are just waking up to this reality that technical and vocational training have become an integral part of these developed countries socio-economic development programmes. It stressed the need to invest in technical and vocational trainings. “It doesn’t matter whether the trainee is a graduate or not,” he emphasised. “The Council has decided to establish 37 Industrial Skills Training Centres, one in each State and the Federal Capital Territory, six Centres of Advanced Skills Training for Employment (CASTE) for skills broadening and upgrading.  This is apart from Sector-Specific Skills Training Centres that are also contemplated to cater for skills needs of Manufacturing, Agric-Agro Allied, Construction, and other critical sectors of the Nigerian economy.”

It added that these centres, when combined with the automobile training centres that will take off next year, and the mobile workshops that are being imported, they will place the Industrial Training Fund on a firm and solid pedestal for it to effectively discharge its mandate.

Recalled that, the Federal government opened a portal for the registration of unemployed Nigerians. A statement by the Deputy Director, Information & Public Relations, National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Edmund Onwuliri, says the portal, www.jobsforall.ng, will serve as a job exchange platform that will link job seekers and employers. He added the portal is in fulfilment of this administrations promise to reduce unemployment in the country.

“The online portal which goes live on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, is designed to capture the relevant details of any unemployed person. It will equally serve as a job exchange portal that will link job seekers and employers. There will be a practical demonstration of the workings of the portal at the NDE stand at the on-going 28th edition of the Enugu International Trade on Thursday, April 6, 2017. However, the portal can be accessed by logging on to www.jobsforall.ng.  The Directorate sees this initiative as a bold step towards deepening the effectiveness of its employment creation strategies and a critical input into the process of designing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and schemes. “The statement reads.

The registration, according to him, complies with the third mandate of the NDE which requires it “to obtain and maintain a data bank on employment and vacancies in the country with a view to acting as a clearinghouse to link job seekers with vacancies in collaboration with other government agencies.” Onwuliri said the framework for the online registration, being handled by the Directorate has been completed and ready for lunch; adding that the NDE has also completed the framework for the electronic registration of unemployed persons in Nigeria. He said: “The online portal which goes live on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, is designed to capture the relevant details of any unemployed person.

It will equally serve as a job exchange portal that will link job seekers and employers. “There will be a practical demonstration of the workings of the portal at the NDE stand at the on-going 28th edition of the Enugu International Trade on Thursday, April 6, 2017. However, the portal can be accessed by logging on to www.jobsforall.ng. The Directorate sees this initiative as a bold step towards deepening the effectiveness of its employment creation strategies and a critical input into the process of designing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and schemes.” The online portal will also serve as a meeting point for job seekers and employers thereby reducing the cumbersome process of recruitment among employers of skilled labour in the private and public sectors.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose for the seventh straight quarter to 13.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 from 13.3 per cent in the previous period. It was the highest level since 2009, as the number of unemployed rose by 5.2 per cent to 11.2 million, employment rose at a much slower 0.6 per cent to 69.5 million and the labour force increased 1 per cent to 80.7 million. Meanwhile, the youth unemployment rate increased to 25 per cent from 24 per cent in the previous period. A year earlier, the unemployment rate was recorded at 9.9 per cent. Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 9.52 per cent from 2006 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 19.70 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2009 and a record low of 5.10 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

In order words, according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s unemployment rate has risen from 13.3 per cent in the 2nd quarter to 13.9 per cent in the 3rd quarter of 2016. This is contained in the Unemployment/Under-employment Report for 3rd Quarter of 2016, released by the NBS.

The report stated that the number of unemployed in the labour force increased by 555,311 persons. According to the report, the underemployment rate rose from 19.3 per cent in the second quarter to 19.7 per cent in the third quarter. The report said that unemployment covered persons (aged 15–64) who during the reference period were currently available for work, actively seeking for work but were without work. Underemployment, however, occurs when a person works less than full-time hours, which is 40 hours, but work at least 20 hours on average a week.

It explained that underemployment could also happen if a person works full time but are engaged in an activity that underutilizes his skills, time and educational qualifications. The report, however, stated that the economically active population or working-age population (persons within ages 15 and 64) increased from 106.69 million in the second quarter to 108.03 million in the third quarter. “This represents a 1.26 per cent increase over the previous quarter and a 3.57 per cent increase when compared to the third quarter 2015.” In the 3rd quarter, the labour force population (i.e those within the working-age population willing, able and actively looking for work) increased to 80.67 million from 79.9 million in the second quarter. “This represents an increase of 0.98 per cent in the labour force during the quarter. “This means about 782,886 persons from the economically active population entered the labour force that is individuals that were able, willing and actively looking for work.

“This magnitude of increase between the second and third quarter is smaller when compared to the first and second quarter, which was an increase of 1.39m in the Labour force population. “Within the reference period, the total number of persons in full-time employment who (did any form of work for at least 40 hours) decreased by 272,499 or 0.51 per cent. “This figure decreased when compared to the previous quarter, and decreased by 1.66 million or 3.01 per cent when compared to the third quarter of 2015.” The report stated that with an economically active or working-age population (108.03 million) and labour force population (80.67 million), 27.36million persons within the economically active or working-age population decided not to work. It said that the population decided not to work for one reason or the other in the third quarter, hence they were not part of the labour force and could not be considered unemployed. According to the report, there are eight consecutive rises in the unemployment rate since the 4th quarter of 2014.

According to the survey, the population of youths aged between 15 and 35 years in Nigeria is estimated to be 64 million, while females are more than males in all age groups. The report said Lagos State had the highest percentage of youths in Nigeria with 6.1 per cent, followed by Kano state representing 5.7 per cent, while Bayelsa state had the lowest with 1.3 per cent. The report said the objective of the study was to provide useful data for the design and development of youth-focused programmes by the Federal Ministry of Youths Development and other partners in the country.

The study was aimed at generating empirical data to inform policy decisions and guide their implementation. It was also aimed at providing government and other stakeholders with useful data that would assist in the development of young people’s employability to ensure their successful transition to the labour market. Lagos Chamber of  Commerce and  Industry  (LCCI)  has lent its voice to the unemployment debacle in  Nigeria.  While reviewing the  Nigerian economy at  53,  last year,  the chamber in a  statement by the former  President,  Goodie  Ibru,  lamented that the unemployment rate in the country has increased by 23.9 per cent. “Unemployment rate has risen to a frightening level of 23.9 per cent; youth unemployment is at 50 per cent; the poverty situation has been worsening, currently estimated at 67 per cent (just as) the security challenges have not really abated”.

He noted that the challenge was the inability to adequately transform the huge opportunities and potentials that abound in the country for the good of the people.  He said;  “the economy is inhibited by serious issues of infrastructure deficits,  especially with regards to power supply,  currently at less than  4000  megawatts;  transportation,  logistics,  the quality of institutions,  cost and access to funds,  among others,  all of which have combined to create a  burden of competitiveness for domestic enterprises. with the new industrial policy of the federal government anchored on the support for the establishment of at least one cottage industry in each of the 774 local governments in Nigeria, an industrial fund should be made handy for local entrepreneurs to access. Again series of business clinics aimed at promoting entrepreneurship intended to serve as a “one-stop solution centre for business problems and capacity building for trade groups in the industrial sector” should be organized by government at every level to generate employment.

On a global scale, there is considerable theoretical debate about the causes, consequences and solutions to unemployment. For classical economics, new classical economics and the Austrian School of economics, market mechanisms are reliable means of resolving unemployment. According to these theories, interventions imposed on the labour market from the outside, such as unionization, bureaucratic work rules, minimum wage laws, taxes, and other regulations discourage the hiring of workers.

Some of the causes of unemployment in Nigeria can be attributed to a sustained level of corruption, civil war, military rule, and mismanagement of abundant natural resources both in human and material, a development which has hindered economic growth of the country over the years. Despite the fact that the country is endowed with diverse and infinite resources, both human and material, long years of negligence and adverse policies have led to the under-utilization of these resources.

These resources have not been effectively utilized in order to yield maximum economic benefits. This is one of the primary causes of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria. The unemployment situation in Nigeria has over the years been a major problem both economically and socially and it has therefore resulted in more and more people who do not have purchasing power. Less consumption has led to lower production and economic growth has been hampered. Unemployment also has social consequences as it increases the rate of crime. The secondary-school graduates consist of the principal fraction of the unemployed accounting for nearly 35 per cent to 50 per cent.

The rate of unemployment within the age group of 20 to 24 years is 40 per cent and between 15 to 19 years it is 31 per cent. Underemployed farm labour, also referred to as disguised unemployed, makes the rural unemployment figures less accurate than those for urban unemployment. Almost 2/3 of the unemployed rural population is secondary-school graduates.

According to Comrade Issa Aremu, vice president, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and General Secretary, Textile Workers’ union, there is a positive relationship between economic growth and job creation. “With 50 per cent open unemployment Nigeria is not just seating on time bombs but as we can see the bombs are exploding in scores through murderous insurgencies.” According to him, economic growth must translate into expanded employment and prosperity for the citizens, saying people must reject the neo-liberal policies that celebrate “jobless growth.” He reasoned that, “Mass unemployment and huge idle human capacity are more expensive to the society both in the short and long terms as we have seen with the violence fuelled by idle capacity willing to unleash terror.

“Unemployment is one of the greatest challenges facing Nigeria’s democracy today. Federal Government has set up a committee on Job creation and has recently held a one-day Job Summit. Several State Governments have also initiated some programmes of Job Creation, but they all constitute a drop in the sea of headcounts of the unemployed. “The real challenge is the urgent need to revive the closed factories and import substitutes the mass goods and services that Nigeria currently imports. Every imported good to Nigeria means imported unemployment and exported employment while every locally produced good means job creation and job retention in Nigeria.”

On his part, the General Secretary of Joint Action Front (JAF), Comrade Aremu Abiodun adds that policy of privatization promote job cut, saying it does not create jobs. “It is not possible for the government to provide jobs with such policy and there is little organized labour can do because they cannot create jobs. They can only engage the government on the policy made,” he added. Former TUC boss, comrade Peter Esele attributes the problem to the inconsistency of government policies and lack of direction. “We need to look at the area where the country is lacking whether inadequate of doctors or others and do the needful. Also, our education system needs total overhauling,” he said.

One key sector that holds the key to the growth and development of the country is the energy sector, particularly the electricity industry. The federal government should do all within its powers to enhance electricity generation to its fullest capacity while diversifying the economy away from dependence on oil, which price is dwindling in the international market.

But the present administration is trying to bridge the unemployment situation through its numerous social welfare schemes as well as the introduction of skills acquisition in the youth corps service to make education functional and youths’ employers of labour as well as the promotion of small and medium scale enterprises, assisted with soft loans from CBN and Bank of Industry.

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