By Omoh Gabriel

Occupy Nigeria, as the Lagos arm of the protest against fuel price increase was tagged, has come and gone. The memories of the mammoth crowd that gathered at the Gani Fawehimi Park in Ojota, lingers. The sheer number of people who were there was frightening…

Assuming such a crowd took to the streets of any of Nigeria’s major cities, it would have been chaotic. But Nigeria stands the risk of several millions marching out one of these days saying they need jobs to keep body and soul together. Nigeria’s unemployment figure is alarming and growing by the day.

It is very easy to conceal this fact in ratio by saying that unemployment is 23.9 per cent. The question to ask the authorities is 23.9 per cent of what, of the total population or of the work force? Either way, the figures are alarming and need urgent action on the part of the government.

In 2011, Nigeria’s population stood at 164.38 million. Out of this, the labour force stood at 67.256 million out of which 51.181 million are said to be employed and 16.074 million are unemployed. Going by official data, the unemployment figure which stood at 12.44 million in 2009, rose to 13.9 in 2010 and further to 16.74 million in 2011.

But this particular government seems not to be in any position to quickly resolve the unemployment situation in the country. Every quarter, government reels out figures of the growth in the economy. Economic growth presupposes economic expansion of production that requires additional hands.

This is not the case. It is a known fact that unemployment has become a major problem for most countries across the world. In the USA for instance, unemployment has increased from 5 per cent in 2007 to 9 per cent in 2011 which gives the Obama administration sleepless nights.

Protesters at Ojota

That of Spain has risen from 8.6 per cent to 21.52 per cent as a result of the debt crisis in Europe; UK, from 5.3 to 8.1 per cent. Unemployment in Ireland currently stands at 14.3 per cent from 4.8 per cent, Latvia from 5.4 per cent to 16.5 per cent, Greece with all its debt trouble from 8.07 per cent to 18.4 per cent and Italy from 6.7 per cent to 8.3 per cent.

The average unemployment for the Euro area is 10.7 per cent. Within the African continent, unemployment has risen with South Africa, Africa’s largest economy having a higher rate than Nigeria at 25 per cent, Angola at 25 per cent, Botswana at 17.5 per cent, Egypt at 11.8 per cent, and Kenya at 11.7 per cent. The population of these other countries is far lower than Nigeria’s.

The Nigerian situation is peculiar in that if the available resources are better managed and utilised, the country will not face this level of youth unemployment. An unemployment ratio of 23.9 per cent of total population will mean that over 38 million Nigerians are unemployed. Of the work force, it means that 16 million are unemployed.

Aganga...Minister of Trade & Investment

These figures are more than the number of persons living in Lagos, Kano and about the population of Ghana (24,223,431); Benin Republic (9,325,032) and some other African countries.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, available data did not capture the number of Nigerians of working age that dropped out at secondary school level for various reasons and entered the job market in the rural and urban areas.

National Bureau of Statistics’ recent survey reveals that women are getting married later than they used to in the past resulting in a sizeable number of these women that would have gotten married and stayed out of the labour market by being housewives entering the labour market pending when they get married. This implies that housewives are not included in the official figure of unemployment in the country.

Women have become very active in the labour market globally. So in Nigeria, any woman who is lucky to hook a man drops out of the labour market. But the truth is that almost every married woman that I know is looking for one job or the other. Many Nigerians who are lucky to keep their jobs in management positions are confronted daily with Curriculum Vitaes of applicants most of them women.

Due to improvement in female education, women are not only getting married later but also, are increasingly becoming more insistent on financial independence and consequently entering the labour market and demanding more jobs than previously. Besides, families with previously just one working member are being forced to send other members of the family previously housewives, into the labour market to look for work to supplement household income.

The banking sub-sector, due to the ongoing reforms and consolidation, has sent several workers into the labour market. The sector instead of generating employment, is shrinking.

The manufacturing sector is worse off. The number of persons in paid employment at the end of 2010 in the cement manufacturing sub-sector stood at 3,318, compared to 4,142 in 2009, a decline of 19.9 per cent.

At the end of 2009, the number of workers engaged in the cement industry stood at 4,289 but this dropped to 3,658 by the end of 2010, meaning 631 persons either lost their jobs or switched jobs away from the cement manufacturing industry.

The number of persons in paid employment in the Hotels and Restaurants sector increased to 71,726 in 2010 from 68,696 in 2009. This represents an increase of 4.4 per cent. Between the end of 2009 and 2010, the number of persons engaged in mining and quarrying sector increased by 2,336 persons to 73,026 persons.

The number of persons in paid employment rose during the period from 4,858 in 2009 to 5,792 in 2010, an increase of 19.2 per cent. A total of 5,147 persons were engaged in the sector in 2009. This rose to 6,221 in 2010, meaning 1,074 jobs were added in the sector during the period under review.

Among the sectors surveyed, Banking and professional services sector has the highest number of paid employees, with 327,777 persons in 2010, a decline of 2.5 per cent from 336,309 a year earlier. Between 2009 and 2010, the number of persons engaged in private professional services increased from 341,247 to 345,568, implying addition of over 4,321 jobs during the period.

The survey of wholesale and retail trade in bulk and retail trade activities such as stores and supermarkets, showed that there were in 2010, 92,287 workers in paid employment in the sector, against the 2009 total of 78,049 workers in paid employment. In addition, 76,473 workers were in paid employment in the sector in 2010 compared to 66,814 in 2009.

In 2010, 76,611 persons were engaged in the sector compared to 67,305 persons engaged in 2009. The over all implication of this is that the economy is not growing fast enough to absorb existing job seekers not to talk of the several millions that join the labour market annually. If this government is serious with its transformation agenda, it must target and implement job creating projects instead of engaging in ostentatious living or consumption.

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