Nigeria is a largely youthful population and this in normal circumstances should be a source of strength for the country. But the latest labour statistics data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released on December 22 shows that what should be the country’s demographic strength is fast becoming a demographic nightmare.
While the NBS report shows that unemployment and under-employment is getting worse in the country, rising from just 14.4 percent of the workforce in the first quarter of 2017 to 18.8 percent of the workforce in the third quarter of 2017, for Nigeria’s largely youthful population, unemployment and under-employment rate has reached a crisis situation.
More than half of Nigerian youths in the workforce, 52.65 percent between the ages of 15-34 years are either unemployed or under employed as at the third quarter of 2017. The magnitude of the joblessness facing Nigeria’s youthful population is seen in the NBS data which shows that 67.3 percent of young Nigerians in the age bracket 15-25 years and 42.4 percent in the age bracket 25-34 years are either unemployed or under-employed.
The NBS data shows that unemployment and under-unemployment got progressively worse for the Nigerian youths in 2017. The proportion of those unemployed in the age bracket 15-24 years moved from an average of 25.3 percent in the first quarter of 2017 to 29.5 percent in the third quarter and 33.1 percent of the workforce in third quarter. The underemployed among the same age group also moved up from an average of 34.8 percent in the first quarter to 35.1 percent in the second quarter before declining marginally to 34.2 percent in the third quarter.
The unemployment situation also got worse for those in the age bracket 25-34 years rising from 15 percent in the first quarter of 2017 to 17.4 percent in the second quarter and hitting a high of 20.2 percent in the third quarter. At the same time under-employment for this age group remained unchanged rising from 21.6 percent in the first quarter to 22.2 percent in the second quarter and 22.3 percent in the third quarter.
Sadly, not even getting a higher education or qualification is guarantying jobs for Nigerian youths as the NBS report shows that 50 percent of the workforce with a post-secondary school qualification are now under-employed or unemployed.
Unemployment and underemployment for Nigerians in the workforce that have attended a tertiary institution have risen steadily since the beginning of 2017 from an average of 36.3 percent in the first quarter of 2017 to 50 percent in the third quarter.
This basically means that one of every two persons in the workforce with a University, Polytechnic or other tertiary qualifications have been left jobless or have been forced to accept a job well below his or her qualifications in order to survive. This has been seen in reports in the media of thousands of people applying for very few job positions or of PHD holders applying for jobs as drivers in Dangote Cement or Master Degree holders applying for jobs as teachers in primary schools in Kaduna. They are the manifestation of the unemployment crisis in the country.
But the fact that higher education is no longer guarantying quality jobs for those who have it could start acting as a disincentive for many youths to seek higher education or for parents to carry the often heavy burden of educating their children. Youths may start considering it a waste of their time in pursuing higher education if it cannot guarantee them a higher standard of living.
It has always been feared that Nigeria’s largely youthful population could become a time bomb. The latest data from the NBS is a clear indication that this is increasingly becoming a reality unless urgent action is taken to reverse the trend of rising youth unemployment and under employment. The rising incidence of insecurity in the country could easily be explained by the fact that 67.3 percent of young Nigerians in the impressionable age group of 15-24 years, in the workforce are either unemployed or under employed. It is not surprising that for this set of Nigerians, the temptation to engage in unlawful acts to stay alive will be high. Rising incidence of kidnaping, online fraud, Boko Haram insurgency and slavery in Libya are all fallouts of the fact that 67.3 percent of these impressionable young Nigerians in the workforce cannot find jobs or get jobs that fully occupy them. This also means that a resolution of the rising insecurity situation in the country would not be sustainable unless jobs are created.
Not surprisingly, because data illiteracy is apparently high in the corridors of power, the implication that more people are getting unemployed or that more than half of the country’s youths are either unemployed or under-employed is lost on states and federal government as there has been no official reaction to the scary data from the NBS. However, the unemployed and under employed youths of today are the poor of tomorrow because they lack the income today to build the wealth that would sustain them when they are adults with increased financial liability and little or no family support. A high youth unemployment rate indicates a country that will have a higher incidence of poverty in the future. It is therefore important that the government have policies in place to reverse this trend.
There has been a lot of rhetoric about creating jobs but there is no yet a clear strategy around making this happen, except for perhaps in Lagos state where an employment trust fund and has been set up to support job creation through entrepreneurship. There has been much noise about N-POWER at the federal level but it is more of a token effort that will not have any long term impact in resolving the youth unemployment crisis in the country. Hopefully, the latest NBS data will wake up the government to the crisis situation that youth unemployment and under unemployment has become in the country and its nightmarish implication for the country’s future.