Last week, Nigerian labourers joined others all over the world to celebrate the May Day or Labour Day. May 1 is traditionally the day set aside to celebrate the worker in so many countries of the world. But in the Nigerian case, would it be true to say it celebrated the worker or the jobless.
In less than a week to that day, the federal government had raised the alarm by admitting that there were 39 million jobless and idle citizens of productive age.
That sounded like an afterthought because the previous week, our correspondent had published an investigative report gleaned from data on job state of the nation from the National Bureau of Statistics. The data, more than every other thing, highlighted that between 1999 when Nigeria’s unemployment rate was about 8.7 per cent, it dropped to 23.9 per cent in 2011.
The trend that is so worrisome from the document is that in the past 12 years reviewed, the nation for once never experienced improvement in the unemployment rate.
The unemployment issue didn’t receive a loud attention on May 1 at the labour rallies attended by governors in the states and President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. Therefore, Abuja Metro reached out to stakeholders to ask why.
The percentage of about 23.9 jobless Nigerians is exactly the data our correspondent got. But the same FG had admitted in 2007 that the number of the jobless was 40 million. However, since there was never an improvement between the time they accepted 40 million was out of job and now, that means an improvement was not possible.
During a Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) in Abuja, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said an average of 1.8 million youths found themselves in the labour market annually out of which about 250,000 to 300,000 are graduates.
She noted that in the first phase of the GIS programme, up to 50,000 unemployed and under-employed graduates would be engaged by the end of the 2013 as interns to build their skills and make them relevant in today’s workplace.
The minister also informed that, at least, 1000 unemployed graduates would be engaged in every state.
Chairman of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P), Dr. Christopher Kolade, at the function also said GIS was a device to invest in the graduates so that they could contribute to national development. Kolade admitted that the real sector was so prominent in the scheme because it had the capacity to take in the graduates.
Government unserious -Esele
Abuja Metro asked the president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, why the issue of growing of unemployment was not the dominant factor by the labourers at the May rallies.
However, he said: “I did speak on that extensively. I know the addresses were long and some might not have heard or read through to notice that unemployment was a matter the TUC handled well and raised issues about.”
“Although government remains the largest employer in the country and also has the capacity to create jobs, it can never create enough. There is no government all over the world that creates enough jobs for the citizens. But what the government ensures and has a duty to create is the right environment for the rest of the citizens and the economy operators to create jobs for others and themselves,” he reasoned.
Esele argued that the small-scale industry sector remained the bedrock of job creation in Nigeria and in any other nation. Because the nation did not provide the conditions that would engender the growth of the sector. Therefore, unemployment, which he described as unacceptable, would always be on the rise.
“We have said it several times and at every opportunity that presents itself that the reason the citizens are jobless is because the governments have refused to do what they should. Until that basic issue is handled, the rate of unemployment must remain high.
“I insist that the reason many Nigerians can’t get themselves jobs is because they have no power supply to sustain such job because before they could start any small business, they must incur so much cost to generate power and at last they are weighed down.
“The next constraint is the greed of the governments that invent all manner of taxes against the few companies that manage to survive. From the local government to the federal government, the entrepreneur in Nigeria is a victim of multiple taxation and that does not in any way encourage growth or the provision of jobs for the citizens. So any effort of sloganeering by the government on how it plans to solve the unemployment problem without first taking care of these factors that would enable the individuals generate jobs for themselves must remain a failure. It does not matter how many times it sings the song of job creation or invention of platform to rehabilitate the jobless graduates. There is no time they can provide enough, so let them allow the conditions that would make individual efforts at self employment thrive.”
Abuja Metro asked Esele what efforts the organized labour had been making to bring the awareness of this suggestion to the government, and he said: “We have always told them that. We do that every time we meet with them or have the opportunity to speak to them.
“Some years ago, we demonstrated our willingness towards this when we signed every document the government wanted us to sign to pave the way for the successful privatization of the power sector. We accepted that the workers were ready to disengage provided they are treated well. And we signed the documents. The non-implementation that has made the completion remain the way it is till now is the fault of the government. We have genuinely demonstrated we want the unemployment problem solved.”
The other figure
Data from federal government sources have shown that the nation has been in uninterrupted mess over unemployment in the past 14 years.
Document from the National Bureau of Statistics authoritatively revealed that between 1999 and 2011, the nation witnessed a sharp drop in the employment rate by 15.7 percent. The 12 years data showed there was no improvement in any year in the years reviewed.
Whereas the nation, from the document had an unemployment ratio of 8.2 percent in 1999, it plummeted to 13.1 percent the following year, a sharp decline of about 5%.
However, while the data from the Bureau remains the official figure, some other sources available to us indicate the Bureau must have underestimated or under reported the development.
In March 2009, the World Bank published a document that Nigeria had about 40 million jobless citizens. The report put the percentage of joblessness at 28.57.
In the same 2009, contrary to World Bank records, the Bureau stated that the unemployment ratio was 19.7%. the wide difference of close to 10% shows the Bureau either intentionally under reported the scourge or does not have the accurate figures.
The admittance of the FG that the World Bank record was authentic through the Labour Ministry in the same month of publication was a popular media issue that was widely reported. Based on the corroboration by the FG and the fact that between 2009 and 2011, the rate dropped to 23.9%, according to the Bureau data, that implies simultaneously that the 5% percent drop adopted in the World Bank’s figure within the period means the actual unemployment rate would be about 32.77%, some 42 million persons in raw figure as at 2011.
The next terrible season of the crisis was between 1999 and 2000 when the unemployment ratio declined from 8.2% to 13.1%. Another bad era was between 2008 and 2011 at a decline ratio of 9.0%, from 14.9% to 23.9%.
The facts also showed that the only year Nigeria had single digit unemployment ratio in the years reviewed was 1999.
At the states breakdown, Oyo and Osun states had the most favourable figure of unemployment, while the next to then is Anambra. Although Lagos maintained a good showing considering the pressure on it by graduates for job, it had one of the worst cases of all the states in 2010 with an alarming 36.5%.
Within 2007 and 2011, about 95% of the states faced their worst season and hit double figures. The FCT also had a bad showing all through with the worst year in 2007 when it had 46.8% joblessness. The next year, there was a sharp drop to 8.7%. Its overall best was in year 2000 when the FCT unemployment rate was 3.9%.
First published by daily sun