Youth Unemployment occurs when young people are without jobs and have actively sought for job within a short period. It is one of the macro-economic problems which every government is expected to monitor and regulate.
Different programs have been introduced by various administrations over time to address youth unemployment, which has been an issue of significant public concern since the days of SAP. In fact, youth unemployment became the focus of the social policy of the military government that ruled Nigeria for much of its years as an independent nation.
The initial reaction of the government was to draft unemployed youth to public programs such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) and the Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DIFRRI), which provided immediate and direct jobs to participants interested in agriculture.
More coordinated and planned measures later followed, and these were classified into three categories: labor demand, labor supply and labor market interventions . Labor demand strategy focused on creating jobs immediately through public works or creating certain jobs in the private sector aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and skills enhancement.
Labor supply strategy dealt with the training and education of prospective job seekers. The labor market intervention strategy focused on improving the labor market and matching demand and supply interrelationships.
Furthermore, certain institutional arrangements and agencies have been established to promote employment among youth with little or no inpact on the prevailing situation.
PREVALENCE OF YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT IN NIGERIA
Several factors may be blamed for the prevalence of youth unemployment in Nigeria. There is a high population growth rate—3.5 percent per annum—which accompanies an already large national population of over 170 million people. In addition, deficient school curricula and poor teacher training have contributed to the failure of educational institutions to provide their students the appropriate skills to make them employable.
Acquisition of special and relevant skills and creation of jobs have remained a focal point in the Nigerian Government policy overtime without proper implimentation.
Government have created different skill acquisition programs without proper and efficient monitoring agencies to make sure it achieve the desired aim. However, factors which include inadequate funding and late release of funds from the federation account among others have impaired the effectiveness of the these programes.
There is a lack of vibrant industries to absorb competent graduates. This obstacle was in part caused by an infrastructural deficit and a debilitating structural adjustment program (SAP) implemented by Nigeria in the 1980s, which led to the closure of many industries and from which the country is yet to fully recover.
The youth unemployment situation has been aggravated by flawed and inconsistent public policies on employment.
WHY GOVERNMENTS’ STRATEGIES DOES NOT YIELD RESULT
While many programs have targeted creating opportunities for youth employment, the outcomes have been greatly limited by a host of factors, including:
Training is often not accompanied by soft loans, which graduating trainees could use as start-up capital in order to facilitate their quick integration into the labor market.
Targeting has also presented a challenge. Often, all categories of unemployed youth are lumped together as if they are homogeneous (in terms of education, skill, capabilities, etc.) when, in fact, there ought to be distinctions on the basis of education, experience, and willingness to learn.
The lumping together of graduates of primary school with those coming out of secondary schools and/or tertiary institutions makes training not only ineffective but also less impactful.
Public policies directed at addressing youth unemployment have faced different challenges including finance, the absence of good administration and implementation, inconsistent policies, unimpressive responses from would-be trainees, and unqualified resource personnel handling the training programs.
PROBLEM OF YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT
Youth unemployment is a global trend, but occurs mostly in developing countries of the world, with attendant social, economic, political, and psychological consequences. Thus, massive youth unemployment in any country is an indication of far more complex problems and an opportunity for youths to be actively mobilized by politicians, warlords, criminal gangs, illegal migration syndicates.
Unemployed youth are readily available for anti-social criminal activities that undermine the stability of societies; especially in the area of Internet Usage, manipulations and other social vices.
Unemployed and underemployed youth are more exposed to conflicts and illegal activities-many of them fall prey to armed and rebel conflicts’.
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD
Government should increase the working hours in the country as it is in countries like America, Canada etc to acccomodate more workers.
A system of education should be evolved where students are given technical training so that it will eventually help them in securing suitable jobs in appropriate lines of occupations.
Government should create enabling environment to promote investments and job opportunities for the youths. This includes provision of power, maintaining law and order, and adequate security.
Our justice system must be strong to facilitate strong contracts and protect mutual trust.
Education curriculum must be immediately revised to incorporate skills acquisitions exercise, Entrepreneurship Development, and enterprise to limit the rat of paper works.
Agriculture is a viable source of investments for young people if it is made attractive. There should be a swift transition from subsistence to commercialized farming. Farm and non-farm activities should be better packaged to make them really attractive.
There should also be adequate investment in rural education. This will boost rural opportunities and reduce rural-urban migration and its concomitant challenges.
The time to do this is now for they say,a stitch in time saves nine.
By Jomo Iroha
Iroha writes from Enugu Nigeria.