By Benjamin Umuteme
Young people all over the world are seen as the next generation of potentially productive economic and social leaders.
This growing youth population in developing nations especially Africa, represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for locally led economic growth which can secure a prosperous future for some of the world poorest people.
Youth unemployment especially in Nigeria has become a threat to socio-economic peace and stability. As the most populous country in the continent, its unemployment rate in 2011 stood at 23.9 percent with youth unemployment rate at over 50 percent.
In South Africa, the unemployment rate is was 25.20 percent in the first quarter of 2013 from 24.90 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. While in Kenya, the unemployment rate rose to 40.0 percent in December of 2011. This the authorities say is an all time high.
But in Ghana with a population of 24million, their unemployment rate was put at 11% in 2012. Those in the 15-24 age bracket have an unemployment rate of 25.6 %, twice that of the 25-44 age group and three times that of the 45-64 age group.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its 2013 report puts youth unemployment figures worldwide at 73million.
Analysis of employment data for the past five years shows that the rate of new entrants into the labour market has not been uniform.
The rate was on the increase from 2007 to 2009, but declined significantly from 2009 to 2010, and increased again from 2010 to 2011. Within the five-year period, there has been an average of about 1.8 million new entrants into the active labour market per year.
However, in Nigeria, due to its inability to keep proper records, analysts say unemployment might be double the figures that are published by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Statistics show that while Niger State has the highest rate of unemployment of 39.4 percent, Kwara State has the lowest with 7.1 percent.
According to industry watchers, over 60 per cent of young people are either unemployed, working but in low quality, irregular, low wage jobs, often in the informal economy, or neither in the labour force.
Interestingly, the Statistician-General of the Federation, Mr. Yemi Kale had recently at a function noted that about 20.3 million Nigerian youths are currently not in any form of employment.
“Nigeria’s unemployment rate is spiralling upwards, growing at 16% per year. The youth of the nation are the most impacted, with a youth unemployment rate over 50%.
A number of factor have been fingered as been responsible for the spiralling youth unemployment in the country, which includes increasing urbanisation, rapid growing youth population, corruption, low state of manufacturing sector, increase in supply with corresponding demand and lack of employable demand.
The government is not taking the issue of youth employment lying low as it has introduced various programmes I a bid to remedy the situation.
Programme such as the Youth With Initiative in Nigeria (YouWIN), Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), Graduate Empowerment Scheme (GEMS) just to mention a few.
In spite of these decisive intervention to rein in the problem of youth unemployment, not much inroad has been made as the 'youth labour market' still continues to swell.
The result of rising youth unemployment situation in the country has provided shrinking options to job seekers as those who do find work are forced to be less selective about the type of job they settle for, including part-time work and temporary contracts because they are in desperate need of any income.
In a chat with FrontiersNews, NLC President, Mr. Abdulwahed Omar warned that if left unattended to, the youth unemployment crisis could undermine the peace and security of the nation.
“Official statistics put the national unemployment rate at approximately 24 percent. As high as this rate is, it nevertheless camouflages the enormity of the unemployment crisis in the country. If unemployment and disguised unemployment were to be added to the figure, the monumental crisis will become more glaring.
“With an estimated 80 million youths in the total population,30 to 40 million unemployed youths constitute a veritable army of the hungry, disillusioned and an angry that can undermine the stability, security and peace of any nation if left unattended.
There is an urgent need for decisive intervention to rein in the youth unemployment problem. The signal of strife and insecurity today are warning banners we cannot afford to ignore.
“To overcome the problem of unemployment, Nigeria must promote strong industrial policies that recognise manufacturing as a key engine of growth and decent mass employment for the national economy.
"The federal government must urgently initiate a range of measures to revive and project labour-intensive industries like textiles, food and beverages, construction, iron and steel sectors, and others,” Mr. Omar stated.
Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, lamented recently that while the Nigerian economy grew at the rate of seven per cent for the past five years, unemployment has actually doubled at same period.
Mr. Sanusi Lamido also noted that the current security upheaval and internal insurrection all over the country were as a result of severe poverty and rising unemployment, especially in the north.
The CBN governor affirmed that the present development and economic reality in Nigeria, where youth unemployment is widening at a time of economic growth, is an aberration.
“There is a serious problem when a country is growing at seven percent and yet could not provide jobs for its citizens. It is like a broken record; a country that produces oil yet imports refined fuel, a country that is in the tomato belt and yet imports tomatoes”, he said.
He, therefore, insisted that a restructuring of the country's economic system by creating the enabling environment that encourages industrialisation which would absorb a percentage of those unemployed.
The CBN governor opined that jobs can only be created by establishing industries that rely on little technology but high in productivity similar to the ones adopted by the Chinese and Asian Tigers.
“The economic problem of Nigeria can only be reduced to one word-value chain. In every sector of the economy, the value chain is broken. I have never understood what the government meant when they talk about job creation as a policy. The only ways you (government) can create jobs is by removing all the impediments and just focus on building the enabling infrastructures like power,” he added.
Mr. Sanusi Lamido recommended that to reduce unemployment, crimes and social unrest in the country, government must fix the energy sector.
Through this, the economy would be improved because more investors would be interested in investing their businesses and in turn create jobs and wealth for the populace in general.