DEALING WITH YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

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MONDAY EDITORIAL

There is urgent need to realign the nation’s educational curriculum with the needs of the economy

Unless the relevant authorities do something critical and urgent about the astronomical rise in unemployment levels, particularly among the youths, Nigeria may be sitting on a time bomb waiting to explode. Figures available paint a dire situation of millions of Nigerian youths roaming the streets looking for work but finding none. The situation is compounded by the economic recession that has necessitated the sacking, by many private enterprises, of their staff in the name of rationalisation.

 The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBC) in its latest report confirmed a consistent pattern of worsening unemployment in the country, rising from 9.9 per cent in 2015 to 19.70 per cent in the last quarter of 2016. That 19.70 per cent of the nation’s labour force is idle is bad enough. But worse and extremely dangerous is the fact that more than 50 per cent of that army of idle citizens is peopled by those between the ages of 15 and 35. When broken down, the NBS figures revealed quite clearly that out of a total youth labour force of 38.2 million, representing 48.7 per cent of the total labour force of 78.48 million in Nigeria, some 15.2 million of them were either unemployed or underemployed in the first quarter of 2016. This represented a youth unemployment rate of 42.24 per cent.

The most disturbing part is that the figures revealed a clear pattern of failure of government policies aimed at dealing with the challenge. Meanwhile, there is no evidence yet that as the country’s economy approaches depression, the unemployment situation will improve. Worse still is that there is no evidence to suggest that the authorities in Abuja and the 36 states appreciate the gravity of the situation nor are there plans to deal with it.

The clear and present danger of such a high level of idleness among young persons are already manifest in the high level of strife and crimes in virtually every corner of the country. Whereas the multitude of violent outbursts might have religious and ethnic colorations and undertones it is a notorious fact that most of the people in the fields and trenches of war are youths who if otherwise meaningfully engaged would have been unavailable for those worthless anti-social endeavours.

However, it is noteworthy that youth unemployment is a worldwide challenge. For instance, India with one of the largest populations of young people in the world has 75 million unemployed youths. But the Nigerian government, particularly the Muhammadu Buhari administration that came to power on the back of an electioneering promise to create jobs for the unemployed, must find a creative way of tackling this challenge before it becomes unmanageable.

No doubt, the unemployment challenge is directly linked with the ill-health of the economy. Government economic recovery plan, therefore, must prioritise youth employment and formulate policies to reduce it to the barest minimum. In the past, the federal government had economic empowerment programmes specifically targeted at young persons, including YouWin, Graduate Internship, etc. Whatever undermined those programmes should be reviewed and appropriate measures taken to improve and make them more efficient to achieve their objectives.

Of more fundamental imperative, however, is the urgent need to realign the nation’s educational curriculum with the needs of the economy. It has been said with some measure of justification that many of the school leavers are actually unemployable with regard to their training and skills. It has become necessary therefore that our educational training curriculum at all levels must incorporate skills acquisition and entrepreneurial development so that graduates leave school with the capacity to create wealth and jobs rather than seeking jobs.