Unemployment – A Time Bomb
The principal macroeconomic goals of every working society are to create conditions of full employment, reduce poverty and promote policies that can create wealth. This is not quite so in economies that are lagging in all growth indicia. On the contrary, the economies of the Less Developed Countries are characterized by unemployment – mostly of the structural, frictional and residual typologies. The under-employment index is unimaginably high. However, unemployment has become a global phenomenon, with the Less Developed Countries hard hit. The economies are characterized by unemployment. The rate of unemployment is calculated as a percentage by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by all individuals currently in the labour force. In a 2011 news story, BusinessWeek reported, "More than 200 million people globally are out of work, a record high, as almost two-thirds of advanced economies and half of developing countries are experiencing a go-slow in employment growth, the group said”.
Keynesianism holds the view that government should intervene to increase demand for workers; these can include financial stimuli, publicly funded job creation, and expansionist monetary policies. Marxism focuses on the relations between the owners and the workers, whom, it claims, the owners pit against one another in a constant struggle for jobs and higher wages.
According to Karl Marx, unemployment is inherent within the unstable capitalist system and periodic crises of mass unemployment are to be expected. The function of the proletariat within the capitalist system is to provide a "reserve army of labour" that creates downward pressure on wages. This is accomplished by dividing the proletariat into surplus labour (employees) and under-employment (unemployed). These reserve armies of labourers fight for the scarce jobs at lower and lower wages. Marxism advocates that the only way to permanently eliminate unemployment would be to abolish capitalism and the system of forced competition for wages and then shift to a socialist or communist economic system.
In fact, employment is a welfare right of every individual in any democratic society. The General Conference of the International Labour Organization, ILO, in June 1934 recommended that in countries where compulsory insurance against unemployment is not in operation, steps should be taken to create such a system as soon as possible. Again, in countries where compulsory or voluntary unemployment insurance is in operation, a complementary assistance scheme should be maintained to cover persons who have exhausted their right to benefit.
Nigeria has been wrestling with the phenomenon of unemployment. It is commonplace to see graduates roaming the street seven to eighty years after graduation without job. Youth unemployment correlates highly with youth violence, criminality and other social vices. This is apart from the fact that a nation where the most active segment is unemployed suffers from low productivity. According to the United Nations, there is an estimated 40 million jobless youth roaming the streets in Nigeria. If we do not take care of the youths and take care of our politics, manage our economy well so that poverty is rapidly alleviated, we will have an explosive situation in our hands. A recent report by ILO equally identified unemployment as the root cause of the growing rate of anti-social activities by youths. Inability to find work by young people usually creates a sense of vulnerability, uselessness and idleness which in turn heightens the attraction to illegal activities.
This is why President Goodluck Jonathan recently declared his administration`s commitment to creating job opportunity for the army of unemployed youth in the country. Under a new scheme: government has introduced the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria nicknamed (YouWin!), and an estimated 110,000 jobs are being planned as part of government`s efforts to tackle unemployment in the next four years. The President disclosed that due to the age distribution of youths, “which makes them more in number”, it was imperative for them to take the driver's seat of the country's development and therefore need all the support his administration could offer. Under the YouWin programme thriving enterprises would submit business plans for expansion which will take in other youths and build capacities through the financial assistance to 3,600 youths. Again, over 3,600 Nigerian youth is estimated to benefit from the programme. It is expected that the new scheme would create between 80,000 and 110,000 sustainable jobs over the next four years.
Government has promised that the YouWin scheme will be launched at each of the six geo-political zones to complete the cycle of youth empowerment which will translate to wealth creation. The World Bank and the Nigerian Institute for Social Research (Niser) in separate reports revealed that over 55 per cent of Nigerians of working age are unemployed while more than 60 per cent are under-employed. Unemployment poses serious challenges to the country. The high unemployment rate in the country poses great challenge to the actualizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
While President Jonathan and his economic team are making concerted efforts to appeal the UNDP, and other development partners to contribute their quota the bad statistics seem to be unending. Added to these bad statistics is the disclosure by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) which puts the number of Nigerian graduates who completed the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) within the last five years but have remained unemployed at over 200,000. This is appalling. It should be noted that President Jonathan appealed to UNDP to assist Nigeria in this programme which aims at providing jobs for the young, since in his own words, Nigeria's population will in November, 2011, rise to 166 million.
For the federal government to realize the goals of reducing unemployment, the first veritable step is to resuscitate the moribund industries such as the Aluminum Smelting Industry and the Oku-Iboku Paper Company all in Akwa Ibom State; In Rivers and Bayelsa States, the RISONPALM and BAYELSA PALM Limited can be resuscitated to employ a couple of thousand of youths. There is also a need for government to leverage on the abundant agricultural potentials.
In the Niger Delta Region, the pervasive criminality of a “frustrated and angry youth”,is a clear indication that the specter of Colombia is now haunting Nigeria. The Niger Delta States, as an economic bloc can leverage on agriculture especially in the areas of - rice farming, commercial livestock production, aquaculture and deep-sea commercial fishing. Other potential areas of advantage may include boat-building firms can be sited in the State for optimize and efficient marine transportation, production of locally made beads, jewelries, and beauty accessories for the international markets. The tourism potentials of the state with its marine ecology provide for a dynamic ecotourism and cultural tourism industry will serve as a revenue generator once it is properly harnessed. Bayelsa has to explore the aforementioned opportunities to break the jinx of the crude-oil monoculture. The potentials of Bayelsa State as a tourist haven and investors' paradise would unfold when there is good leadership.
The unemployment rate in Nigeria is so alarming that it is fast becoming a time-bomb and this underscores the need for concerted efforts by all tiers of government in providing employment for the youths. In major Nigerian towns and cities, bank robbery now takes place in broad day light. The monster of kidnapping for ransom appears to be back in the streets. Whereas the Presidential Amnesty Programme has succeeded in mopping up some agitators, a huge chunk of the non-agitators have been left behind. I have always advocate the need for enlargement and inclusion of more youths in the programme because our school system has produced a huge array of de-skilled graduates – most of them bereft of marketable talents to manipulate production processes. The implication is that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should make another PROCLAMATIONlifting the embargo so the PAP will start another phase that will be all inclusive. We cannot neglect those choruses of stakeholders yearning for inclusion into the PAP, for doing so would mean alienation of an important segment of the youths.
Already the Amnesty Programme has produced a mass of skilled manpower that can be absorbed into the productive sectors of the economy; some of the skilled persons may be self-employed if they are given the requisite starter packs. In this endeavour, the Multinational Oil Corporations should not be left out. Efforts should be made to re-invigorate the organized private sector to employ skilled youths. The Jonathan administration seems to have bought the dummy of deregulating the downstream sector to the point of overkill – an exercise I had nicknamed NEOLIBERALISM RUNNING AMOK. When jobs are not created, the real sectors of the economy are as moribund as ever, most of the existing industries that wound up have not been vivified and there is REAL hardship in the land, the apostles of SUBSIDY REMOVAL can be likened to the 500 jurors who administered the hemlock on Socrates. PGEJ and his Economic Team shall never play the role of those Athenian jurors because the unemployed mass of humanity inundating this geo-political space deserves some mercy. The unemployed too have a right to live and their welfare rights are enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
Mr. President those voices advocating subsidy removal are enemies of the masses and sooner or later, when such anti-people policies are implemented, the same people will vote with their voices, for the Arab Spring to be enacted in Nigeria. Government officials and Civil Society Organizations should preach job creation rather than support DEREGULATION. The conditions for subsidy removal do not exist and until we all see unemployment as a serious danger to the overall well-being of the country and work hard to curb the monster, it is likely to loom large in the years ahead. It is a time bomb in our body polity.
Idumange John, Deputy President, Niger Delta Integrity Group
WITH MY HEART, I SAY NO TO DEREGULATION !