Nigeria’s growing unemployment is one of a major concern to many analysts and economists as the figures increasingly suggest dwindling potentials. Official figures from the Bureau of statistics puts this figure at about 20% (about 30million), but this figure still did not include about 40million other Nigerian youths captured in World Bank statistics in 2009.
By implication, it means that if Nigeria’s population is 140 million, then 50% of Nigerians are unemployed, or worse still, at least 71% of Nigerian youths are unemployed. This is particularly disturbing and counterproductive because at least 70% of the population of this country is youths. Viewing this from the perceptive of the recent events in the Middle East where unemployment and poverty among others played a key role in the uprising, one can only conclude that Nigeria’s unemployment poses a threat to its development, security and peaceful coexistence, being that Nigeria is made up of diverse entities from different cultural and religious backgrounds most of whom have shown differences in political, cultural and religious understanding and accommodation emanating from concerns of abuse of power, resource allocation, nepotism, negligence and corruption among others.
It is therefore not out of place to consider massive employment generation as an issue of a major focus on national development and economic growth plan of the Nigerian government. It is also interesting to note that effective use of labour force is a major contributor to some emerging economies’ recent rapid economic growth, who have averagely single digit unemployment figures. Unfortunately, many Nigerian economists argue from one perspective that employment can only be generated from increased economic activity, but taking a closer look at the beginnings of developed nations like the United States, Canada and Europe, it can be observed that this argument is a bit flawed because economic activity can also be generated from massive employment. The question is how, and at what cost and benefit?
It is worthy of note that the current minister of finance, Olusegun Aganga, during his screening at the senate, pointed out as a deficiency the fact that Nigeria is yet to adequately utilize the potentials from its active youth population, though little has been seen from that perspective since his accent to power as minister of Finance, as many critics believe. This article aims to suggest ways in which Nigeria’s abundant human capital can be effectively utilized for more efficiency, productivity, and economic development.
Shift work, as an employment practice is nothing new in our society today. It dates back as far as industrialization itself when it was primarily being utilized in the manufacturing industry to increase output and maintain efficiency, but it is common today in many societies where it is utilized extensively in the service industry. Shift work is also traditional in law enforcement and armed forces. Even today in our clinics, broadcast media, and offshore petroleum industry, shift work is being employed. Shift work has been known to bring economic and social benefits, which include but not limited to expanding employment opportunities and increasing output and productivity, and just like economics would say, it makes a more fuller and effective use of scarce capital resources and creates more jobs.
Shift work is actively and extensively utilized in modern societies. In fact, shift work is an integral part of the US employment experience and has accounted for rapid growth in the service sector with about 15.7million new jobs created (US Bureau of statistics, 2009).
With good policy management, the Nigerian government can introduce mandatory shift work into the active sectors of the Nigerian economy, for instance, to limit the number of hours a person must be employed on the same job in a day. In our service sector, for instance, this will help in solving problems of involuntary worker overstretch and exhaustion, and improve customer service delivery. By this, I mean that implementing shift work will allow the worker to choose whether to take up a second job or do with only one, a decision many workers in Nigeria find impossible to make since the job cannot be split. But if implemented, workers who have interests to further their education needs or run their private businesses or attend to other personal needs will have the opportunity to do so. In another dimension, this will help to increase service delivery times.
Shift work, of course, cannot work effectively in Nigeria without a complete tax reform policy. While President Obama (then Senator Obama) suggested tax credit to middle income earners and small businesses in the United States, I would rather suggest we implement some tax credit for our mega employers who are willing to employ more staff, and also to at least hedge the effects of shift work on especially their low income earning staff, while at the same time maintaining the rate of the personal income taxes. The current move by the Federal government to reduce income tax rates is quite flawed because though it may have a good intention, it lacks direction and economic sense.
It looks more like a poverty alleviation program when the government should be more concerned with economic empowerment programs by implementing policies which seem to have a recurring effect for the government in terms of income while at the same time serving the needs of the people. Tax policies by the government should be directed at encouraging or increasing economic activity while also indirectly increasing consumer spending and therefore indirect taxation from the government, in which case, the funds are ploughed back into the system.