In a recent report, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said the unemployment rate in the country rose from 27.12 million or 13.9 percent in the third quarter to 29 million or 14.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016. In the period under review, the number of the unemployed in the labour force rose by 351,015 persons. According to the report, the percentage increase in the first and second quarters of 2016 were slightly lower at 12.1 percent and 13.4 percent respectively. While 24.5 million Nigerians were unemployed in the first quarter of 2016, 26.06 million persons were jobless in the second quarter of the same year, an increase of 2 million within one quarter.
NBS said underemployed in the labour force in the third quarter of 2016 was 15.9 million persons or 19.7 percent, while the figure of the underemployed in the fourth quarter of 2016 stood at 17.03 million persons or 21.0 percent. The report also said unemployment and underemployment remain highest among persons aged between 15 to 24 years. While unemployment rate was high among those within the ages of 15 to 24, underemployment rate for the same age group increased in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 36.5 percent. NBS further said the respective rates of unemployment and underemployment was higher in women than in men in the fourth quarter of 2016.
These unemployment figures are frightening. 29million is more than the population of many countries. A steady increase with no sign of reduction in the figures shows how government has not done enough to address the challenges associated with unemployment in the country. The online registration of unemployed persons by the federal government which was announced in April 2017 is not a practical solution to the problem. Beyond the completion of its job creation programme under the N-Power scheme is the need for government to tackle some critical challenges that inhibit self-employment drives. In order to facilitate the creation of jobs especially in the private and non-oil sectors of the economy, government must improve upon the current state of public power supply; make the agricultural sector more attractive to youths; provide less-strenuous procedures for SMEs to access credit facilities and create a friendlier environment for ease of business and for manufacturing companies to survive. A one-digit interest rate would facilitate economic growth in the private sector.
In a strategic effort to tackle unemployment and under employment, it is pertinent for government to review the dysfunctional aspects of school curriculum at all levels of the education system. The provision of essential social services in rural areas should be scaled up to forestall rural-urban migration especially among those who lack employable skills needed in urban towns and cities. One disturbing fact in these revelations by NBS is that youths are the worst hit in the unemployed and underemployed categories. Ironically, this is the group of the population that has the strength to work and feed a hungry nation that imports the greater percentage of its staple food from other countries that have lesser vegetation potentials than Nigeria. The failure to engage the youth population in productive activities is a waste of the country's most essential human capital as well as a disservice to the economic development of Nigeria. It is apparently due to their non-engagement in productive ventures that the present generation of Nigerian youths take to political thuggery and innovative criminal enterprises such as kidnapping and email scams. With proper positioning and strategic planning, agriculture alone can provide employment for the 29 million unemployment persons.
We commend NBS for its periodic statistics which government requires for national planning. We urge the bureau to keep up the tradition and improve upon it such that reports will be released soon after the close of every quarter.