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TACKLING UNEMPLOYMENT IN A TRANSFORMING ENVIRONMENT

By NBF News
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Unemployment is said to be the factor behind social unrest that hamper development in many nations. MOSES JOHN, in this analysis, takes a look at the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and the transformation agenda of Jonathan administration in terms of employment.

Unemployment, according to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, is 'the number of people in a particular country or area who cannot get a job. The same dictionary also defines job to be 'a regular paid work that you do for an employer.'

Unemployment has been an issue of concern to all nations desirous of economic growth, social upliftment and development.

Unemployment is non-homogeneous as it is characterised by age, sex, region, amongst others.

However, youths provide the vital fuel for a nation's economic growth and development; they are the vanguard for the survival of the present and provide the pool of leadership for the future.

When a country is faced with a particular socio-economic problem, it cannot but think and map out strategies for tackling such a problem effectively.  A look at unemployment in Nigeria could not have come at a better time than this, when the situation is begging for attention.

The Director-General of the NDE, Malam Abubakar Mohammed, who presented a paper recently at the Executive Intelligence Management Course in Abuja, said youths, as a demographic entity, are heterogeneous, characterised by gender, education level, geographical location within the country and social background.

Mohammed who spoke on the topic, 'Tackling Unemployment in a Transforming Environment from the perspective of the government within the context of the NDE,' also said this group represented the most active and valuable sector of the nation's demography, economically and socially.

The DG added that they were the most affected when unemployment crises set in, even those already in employment are the first to be affected when organisations exercise economic measures such as rationalisation, downsizing, retrenchment, etc.

He said that the transformation programme of the present government was based on priority policies and initiatives which, when implemented, would transform the Nigerian economy to meet the needs of the nation.

'It focuses basically on the following priority areas; job creation, public expenditure management, good governance, education, health sector, power, information and communication technology, Niger Delta and transportation,' he said.

The NDE helmsman also expressed concern that the transformation environment was not fair enough because it was saddled with enormous challenges due to the fact that transition to various levels of education, especially from secondary to tertiary level, is saddled with various problems culminating in high incidence of drop-outs and failures in English Language and Mathematics.

These two subjects are not only a compulsory requirement for admission into tertiary institutions, but also a basic requirement for wage employment and recruitment into any military or para-military service; hence, the high preponderance of persons who are neither in education nor employment or training (NEET).

Other challenges include geometric increase in graduate unemployment, the negative effects of globalisation, lack of interest among youths in taking the abundant opportunities in the agricultural sector as well as the informal economy, etc.

Mohammed further said that in recent times, the world witnesses a surge in youth-led political and social protest movements across the world, with young people clamouring for jobs and, to some extent, freedom and social justice.

Lack of productive employment opportunities, coupled with aspiration for social justice and better economic future has been directly linked to the causes of protests, arson and thuggery.

'Most unpatriotic citizens find it easy to recruit unemployed youths as tools to unleash terror on citizens in the name of opposition.  The National Bureau of Statistics  (NBS) reported that unemployment has been a major problem for most countries across the world.  It further reported that the USA experienced increase in unemployment rate from 5% in 2007 to 9% in 2011.

Spain's figure has increased from 8.6% to 21.52%; UK from 5.3% to 8.1%.  At the African continent level unemployment has been on the increase.  South Africa, being Africa's largest economy, has unemployment rate at 25%, Botswana at 17.5%, Kenya at 11.7% and Namibia at 51%, Nigeria is at 23.9%.

'The NBS report of 2010 indicated that 16 states recorded high composite unemployment rates, i.e. above the national average of 19.7%.  These states are Bayelsa, Katsina, Bauchi, Akwa-Ibom, Gombe, Adamawa, Rivers, Borno, Kano, Yobe, Taraba, Jigawa, Sokoto, FCT, Imo and Ekiti (within 20.6% – 38.4% range).

This high unemployment rate reflects the weakness in some of the states' socio-economic policy designs, particularly those relating to the educational system/quality, skills acquisition, employment generation, cultural dimensions-in terms of diversity in preferences.

'To illustrate this, the seeming high preponderance of youth unemployment in the northern section of the country may be attributable to low education and the risk aversional tendencies towards preference to wage employment (for job security reasons) as against the South-east section (in taking the risks associated with self employment-owning or starting a new business).

According to the DG, Nigeria is the world's eighth largest country in terms of population.  It has been further projected that, by year 2030, Nigeria will have an additional 68 million people, and will increase more with 63 million by 2050.

This will project it to be the fifth most populous nation in the world after China, India, the United States of America and Pakistan.

The activities of the NDE serve to complement other initiatives of government targeted at employment generation and poverty reduction.

For 26 years or more, the NDE has garnered some strength and capacity in areas such as the conceptualisation, articulation and implementation of skills training to empower the non-homogeneous unemployed persons to be either self employed or  have wage employment.

The NDE, which has operational offices in all the states of the federation, with 774 local government secretariats, a pool of experienced and technically pro-efficient master technicians/artisans in the informal sector serving as trainers and training outlets, is an important agency mandated with assisting youths to be self-employed.

Recently, the NDE has focused on non-formal training with the setting up of about 48 fully equipped technical skills and 28 agric skills acquisition centres nationwide.

Youths are therefore enjoined to take advantage of these resources to   acquire technical skills that would enable them to be both employable or self-employed.