Nigeria, said to be giant of Africa and with a robust population of over 150 million, can boast of bountiful supply of human resources, both skilled and unskilled, made up of men and women, account for the capital base of the nation. However, it would be pertinent to note that the number of skilled but idle far outweighs the unskilled and working (Rotimi Ige, Tribune Newspaper; Tuesday 6th July, 2010. ). The above cited work represents the view of most Nigerian populace on Nigeria and the level of unemployment in its economy. Before we will divulge more into the discourse, let us know what the concept ‘unemployment’ connotes. Ewa Udu and Agu (2000) define unemployment as a situation in which persons capable and willing to work are unable to find suitable paid employment.
Unemployment could be seasonal, frictional, internationally transmitted or structural. Seasonal unemployment occurs in industries that are seasonal in nature. Such industries engage labour temporarily during the peak periods and lay them off in the off-peak seasons. Again frictional unemployment exists when particular occupation has surplus workers in one part of the country while spaces for similar jobs are very much available and are not filled in other geographical locations of the same country. Poor knowledge of the existence of job opportunity elsewhere and labour immobility are the major factor that give rise to this type of unemployment. Moreover, in export-oriented industries, if demand in the industries falls off due to deterioration of trade of the importing country, most workers in the industries will be laid off. Sometimes, there may be changes in the pattern of aggregate demand and in the techniques of in the industry. When this occurs in an adverse way, some workers may be affected and they will be retrenched. This is termed structural unemployment.
In 2006, the rate of unemployment was only 2. 9%. It rose to an outrageous rate of 5. 8% in 2007. Thereafter, it fell slightly to 4. 9% in 2008. Since then, it remained static at that level till the present 2010 (CIA World Factbook). These statistics do not portray Nigerian economy in the positive as regards employment of human resources because in a country like Britain, 2% rate of unemployment of the labour force is considered very high. Recent release by the National Bureau of Statistics reports that over 20 million graduates are unemployed in Nigeria. A casual visit to any center where employment aptitude test is being conducted will show one the exact level of unemployment in this country. The test conducted by WAMCO Consulting Firm on behalf of one Dutch company last year witnessed more than 30 thousand candidates. Another test conducted by the same firm on behalf of Honeywell recorded more number.
These candidates were only the ones that met the screening criteria (ie 2nd Class Upper), am not talking about those that applied but were rejected. When most banks conducted their own tests, security men (illiterates) were used to drive graduates up and down. Some were flogged, maltreated and humiliated; just because they needed some job. One hardly passes ten people on the road without coming across at least one unemployed graduate. Some of these graduates have migrated round all the cities of Nigeria in search of jobs; all to no avail. They have moved from Lagos to Port-Harcourt, to Kaduna, to Kano, to Onitsha and all other places not worthy of mentioning.
This socio-economic problem of unemployment can be attributed to many and varied causes. Some of the conspicuous roots of the problem include population, academic curriculum, choice of course of study, laziness, greed, government policies, employment discrimination and government poor implementation of its employment policies.
Nigeria is the most populated black nation of world. The last conducted census put the figure at over one hundred and fifty million. In this great number, more than 50% are in the labour force of the country. What this means is that there will be serious drag for the little available openings of job opportunities available. This offers the answer to the reason why more than thirty thousand Nigerian graduates turn out for a job aptitude test that will not take up to twenty candidates.
More so, another major cause of unemployment in this country is the education system and the type of curriculum they run. From primary school to the university, the curriculum is more of theory than practical. In the eighties, primary school pupils were asked to do crafts; molding objects, making baskets, carving works and other handiworks but today in public schools, they are asked to bring toilet tissues as craft while in private schools, they bring money in lieu of craft. So, after primary school, a holder of First School Leaving Certificate cannot do anything with his or her hand. That of post primary school is nothing to write home about. The students are taught only how to cram textbooks and nothing more. Once you are able to commit all the contents of Ababio, P. N.
Okeke and Modern Biology to memory, you are a bright and intelligent student. Nobody or no teacher cares whether you know their practical applications or not. Ours is Science without Technology; which is useless. All the old Commercial and Vocational Schools that offered vocational courses like catering, fashion and designing and culinary skills have all been turned into pure ordinary secondary schools in order to join the trend and not run the risk of being left behind.
All the graduates of these high schools have no place in economy because they don’t have any skill to offer for exchange. This trend takes the students into the university. The university is the worst because not only that it is theory based system but most lecturers are not even willing to give that theory. Students are taught computer science in the classroom without a single computer system. Most roadside mechanics are more skilful than most graduates of mechanical engineering who parade themselves as engineers. A final year Accounting student has never seen a real cash book except the hypothetical ones he sees in the textbook. How can a product of this kind of system be employable?
Choice of course of study is another factor that contributes much in the employment problems in Nigeria. Many parents tend to choose careers for their offsprings because they in love with a particular profession without considering whether those their children have penchant for such profession. Some people may like to be musicians or comedians but their parents will kick against that and force them into a discipline they have aversion for. At the end, when they come out of school, they cannot practice and thus remain unemployed. Again, due to JAMB and its related admission problems, some students end up studying what they didn’t intend studying initially. Many students started with Sciences but they ended up studying an Art course due to admission ‘wahala’. Nigeria is a developing economy. For that, not all disciplines are fully functional here. If you read such courses, you remain unemployed unless you have a godfather somewhere. I can still remember when one former president of Nigeria was addressing some national issues on Radio Nigeria and people were calling him to ask some questions. One guy called and told him that he graduated from the university and for four years he had not gotten a job. The president asked him what he read and he replied ‘Sociology’. The president gave a mirthless laugh and told him that all the money spent for training him was wasted. Although that professionalism is not so highly upheld in Nigeria, yet there are graduates of certain disciplines that cannot fit into Nigerian economy. The crude mentality of a greater percentage of Nigerians equally contributes to this. For instance, somebody who has some problems, obstacles or setbacks would rather go to a native doctor, pastor or prophet instead going to a psychologist.
More so, some graduates are lazy to work. They want easy life. They expect everything to come in a platter of gold. Most of them are looking for white collar jobs where they will just sit under an air conditioner, do little or nothing and get paid. They will keep looking for that type of job till eternity. A graduate was offered a job as a store keeper and he has the temerity to say that he won’t touch or arrange cartons. This means he is lazy and not yet ready to work. Some female graduates concentrate on posting their pictures to all the social networks, dating and match making websites on the internet to cast their bait and know if they can catch a big fish. Nobody wants to bear the cross before wearing the crown any longer.
Furthermore, some graduates are too greedy. Many of them don’t want to start from the scratch. They want to make it overnight. They thought that once one graduates from the university, he become super rich. Most of them only talk and discuss about the ‘big shots’ in the society without taking out time to read their biographies or at least go through their profiles. If they do that, they will find out that all those men and women have worked and served in various capacities; both low and high before arriving at their present positions. Immediately after graduation, the eyes of these graduates are set on Politics, Oil and Gas and Banking (when banking was doing well), ignoring other lesser sectors that are willing and ready to absorb them. They all want to ride fanciful latest cars after three months of their employment. This is utopia and mirage because such jobs are semi-nonexistent now. For that, most graduates will keep on waiting for them till kingdom come.
Again, there is a great discrimination and prejudice going on in the labour market now. Employers of labour are not helping matters at all. Some applicants are prejudiced against on the grounds of their sex, age, type of certificates and even tribe or ethnicity. Most office works can be done by both males and females alike; why the sex discrimination then? Why do we see an advert that goes like this “a young female accountant needed for immediate employment”? Does it mean that a male cannot do that job? Some job interviewers give jobs to ladies that are not qualified because they agreed to sleep or have slept with them; leaving behind the more qualified males. Females are equally being discriminated against but are mostly married women. Most engineering jobs that involves much field work and constant movement don’t usually consider women. Most new generation banks don’t consider married women. Some go the extent of getting the young ladies sign an undertaking that once they get married, their appointments are terminated. Age is another area for discrimination. Banks as well as other blue chip companies are mostly culprits of this offence. Most of them don’t accept any applicant that is above twenty-four years old. They need very young, beautiful and attractive ladies that they will push into the market for ‘corporate prostitution’. The young handsome guys are used to entice the sugar mummies to operate an account with them. . These young fellows are pushed back into labour market once they failed to meet up with the unrealistic targets given to them. The worst discrimination in the labour market is that of BSC/HND dichotomy. Many employers of labour discriminate against the HND holders in favour of their counterparts with BSC. Although that in the advert, they always write BSC or HND as the qualification needed but when it reaches to the actual job placement, the HND holders are jettisoned. Government equally has a hand in the creation of unemployment in the economy. Some government policies are highly detrimental to job creation in this country. Some graduates who couldn’t find jobs pick up motorcycles and become ‘okada’ riders. But some State Governments thwarted their efforts by laying a ban on okada riding. Many graduates want to go into the production of local beverages, cosmetics and other little items with little fund they garnered after service but they don’t have the money to register the products with appropriate government agencies like NAFDAC, SON etc. Some of them that succeeded in erecting a small scale manufacturing firms are being asphyxiated by huge and excess taxation. All these not withstanding, the government has initiated some policies and established some agencies that will help in addressing the issue of employment in Nigeria. Some government efforts towards achieving a high rate of employment in Nigeria include the establishment of Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, institution of the Nigerian Director of Employment, initiating of National Poverty Eradication Programme and National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy.
Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity has a network of thirty-one Employment Exchanges and seventeen Professional and Executive Registries. Nigeria Directorate Of Employment has four specific programmes which are Vocational Skills Development, Rural Employment Promotion, Small Scale Enterprises and Special Works. National Poverty Eradication Programme has five initiatives which are as follows: Village Economic Development Solutions, In Care of the People, Community Economic Sensitization Scheme, Multi Partner Matching Funds and Score on Poverty. National Economic Empowerment Strategy is a Nigeria’s plan for prosperity. The government way of letting the people know how it plans to overcome the deep and pervasive obstacles to progress that the government and the people have identified. The greatest of the obstacles is unemployment.