The saying, “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow” is a verity. When the future of a country’s youth population feels bleak, that portends danger. And one characteristic of a bleak future is youth unemployment. Hence, the increasing spate of youth restiveness in the country may not be unrelated to the country’s rising youth unemployment.
Nigeria’s unemployment rate as of the end of 2020 rose to 33.3 per cent, from 27.1 per cent recorded as of Q2 2020, indicating that about 23,187,389 (23.2 million) Nigerians remain unemployed. This is according to the recently released labour force report published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The information has helped Nigerians see clearly how the deck is stacked against the poor and the disadvantaged.
Aside from making it next to the highest on the global list, the report does indicate that ‘more than 60 per cent of Nigeria’s working-age population is younger than 34. Unemployment for people aged 15 to 24 stood at 53.4 per cent in the fourth quarter and at 37.2 per cent for people aged 25 to 34.
The rate of unemployment for women during the period stood at 35.2 per cent, compared with 31.8 per cent for men.
Output will only recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, the Bretton Wood Institution said. The number of people looking for jobs will keep rising as population growth continues to outpace output expansion. Nigeria is expected to be the world’s third most-populous country by 2050, with over 400 million people, according to the United Nations.
No doubt, as this behemoth of a problem is attracting varying concerns from well-meaning Nigerians, the development demands concerted effort on the part of government.
There is the developing shift from lamentation and rhetoric to finding solutions by asking solution oriented-questions. Based on informed recommendations to those pertinent questions, government has to ensure the implementation of experts’ advice/solutions to unemployment in Nigeria. Nigeria must do something bold to reverse the current unrelenting rise in unemployment in the country.
Although the problem of unemployment in Nigeria has multiple ramifications, there aren’t many root problems associated with the menace.
Infrastructure goes pari passu with economic development, and by extension, high employment. Nigeria undoubtedly needs better infrastructure for economic growth. Critical areas would include improving rail and road transportation. The country’s dilapidated roads constitute an albatross to the growth of the agriculture sector. For example, tonnes of food reportedly perish daily on Nigerian roads enroute markets due to the dilapidated state of the roads. This is accentuated in the near absence of a functioning rail system.
When agricultural products don’t get to their destination, it discourages further production, thus contributing to unemployment, because it becomes a mismatch between producers and consumers.
Infrastructure such as adequate power supply also plays a vital role in promoting agriculture because it is needed to preserve food, livestock production, among other things.
The security situation in the country is also adding to the rising rate of youth unemployment, especially in states that had hitherto been food baskets of the nation.
Any country desirous of achieving sustainable development, must throw its weight behind agriculture by creating an enabling environment that will encourage youths to take to farming. Aside from the worrying awareness that by 2050, global consumption of food and energy is expected to double as the world’s population and incomes grow, while climate change is expected to have an adverse effect on both crop yields and the number of arable acres, we are in dire need of solution to this problem because unemployment has diverse implications.
Security-wise, a large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed. Any transformation that does not have job creation at its main objective will not take Nigeria anywhere and the agricultural sector has that capacity to absorb the teeming unemployed youth in the country.
One negatively impacting trend developing is that there are dramatic shifts from agriculture in preference for white-collar jobs, a trend that urgently needs to be reversed, especially for a country like Nigeria whose agriculture industry is not yet developed for mechanized farming. Defining and properly assigning the agriculture value chain can make it attractive for the country’s teeming youth population. As a matter of fact, young people and intelligent Nigerian minds are increasingly getting involved in the agriculture value chain, employing technology in that sphere.