Saturday, 4 May 2013

GRADUATE UNEMPLOYMENT IN NIGERIA: CAUSES AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS


The print, electronic and social media have made the issue of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, a focus of every government across the globe today. It became so serious after the “Arab Spring” which was a reaction against regimes and governments that have perpetuated themselves against the wish of the people, and were insensitive to the astronomical rise in the number of unemployed youths and its negative consequences. Today, nations and governments are being called upon to make drastic decisions to initiate, implement, monitor, evaluate and scale up effective public policies and programmes with the aim of reducing the rate of unemployment especially among young graduates.
But what are the causes of unemployment, especially graduate unemployment, in a country like Nigeria? And what can be done to reduce, if not eliminate, graduate unemployment in the country.
A research paper titled, “Graduate Unemployment in Nigeria: Causes, Effects and Remedies”, written by Dr. Oluseyi a. Shadare and Elegbede Sikirulalu Tunde, of the Department of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, published by the British Journal of Arts and Social Sciences in 2012, and available on http://www.bjournal.co.uk/BJASS.aspx, revealed, based on a study conducted by Fajana (2000), that the following factors were identified as the major causes of unemployment in Nigeria: 1) the long period of initial unemployment among university graduates in Nigeria; 2) faulty manpower planning and expansion of educational facilities that have unduly raised the expectations of Nigerian youths; 3) the economic recession; 4) continued proportionality of expatriates in employment; 5) the institution of NYSC; 6) the collective bargaining process; 7) graduate attitude to some type of jobs, attitude to jobs in other location as well as search behaviour of employers and job seekers; 8) use of capital intensive technology; 9) wide rural- urban migration; 10) formal – informal sectors differentials.
Considering carefully the above “assertion” by the authors, from a personal point of view, some of the factors listed above are symptoms of an ageing and declining educational system that is inconsistent with present realities; and inadequate efforts of the government in the areas of policies and programmes targeted at achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth and full employment. Therefore, it is obvious that the government and the higher-education institutions (HEIs) are responsible for the rise in graduate unemployment in the country. The individual unemployed graduates also share in the blame. Most of them were never responsible for their learning thus limiting their chances to secure decent and sustainable jobs after graduation. 
A Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Secretary to the Benue State Government, a couple of years ago, told us that education in Nigeria was designed to develop graduates needed in public employments to assist the government in the day-to-day running of government ministries, agencies and departments. Little or nothing was done to prepare graduates for private sector employment and entrepreneurship. It was out of place to think of educating young people to become entrepreneurs and self-employed and to function effectively in private workplaces. Higher-education institutions were less concerned about improving their curricula and staff capacity in research and development especially in the area of science and technology. Courses offered in HEIs were mostly in administration, social sciences, humanities, and some non-technical courses. And even till date, the trend has not really changed. There are no information relating to changes in curricular contents and courses offered in HEIs in the country, and reports of investment in Research and Development, especially in the field of science and technology in relation to GDP are scarce. How can HEI graduates secure decent and sustainable jobs months after graduation with such an education? The education system is rigid and resistant to change. Preparing graduates for public jobs alone is a fault, especially in this 21st Century where knowledge and skills are rendered obsolete at the speed of light.
A look at the methods of teaching and assessment/evaluation of students shows a great biasness against the students. Teaching and assessment of students are not student-centered, and lectures are taken under poor conditions and in crowed lecture-rooms. Most lecturers monopolize and hoard vital information from students. Little or no discussions are permitted during lectures and, in some cases, questions are disallowed. Participatory, collaborative and entrepreneurial learning are highly prohibited.
What are the “qualifications” of the lecturers today? Employments in most of the HEIs are based on political affiliations and paper qualifications. Individuals that have no business in any classrooms are occupants of classes beyond the level of undergraduate. Some do not know that the employability of graduates under their tutelage is a reflection of their performance and productivity.
Higher-education institutions are like factories. They are expected to produce quality products or risk closure. The output of any factory in the form of products and/or services is determined by the quality and quantity of input combination. When products and/or services fall short of the required standard, people are held accountable. It suffices to say that if majority of HEI graduates in Nigeria cannot find decent and sustainable jobs after few months of graduation on the bases of skills and competencies gained then the schools should be held responsible.
The employability of graduates from HEIs in Nigeria should serve as a measure of the quality of educational services offered by the schools. Take a survey of HEIs, both public and private, in the country and it will surprise you to note that none of them have up-to-date records of their graduates’ employment status.
Funding may be a challenge for most of the schools but it should not be an excuse for poor performance. The schools should know their carrying capacities, and any plans to increase the number of courses and students should be matched with equivalent expansion in both human and material resources.
Full employment, or anything near it, is a product of deliberate planning by the government. National policies and progrmmes of government in Nigeria do not make room enough to absorb the growing supply of graduates from HEIs  in the country. Public policies and programmes are not designed to generate adequate economic opportunities capable of mopping up excess supply of graduates in the labour market. Expansion of educational facilities is not a cause of graduate unemployment at all. The expansion of educational facilities across the country can only become a problem, if such an expansion is not backed by equivalent increase in human and material resources. There should be a “Total Quality Assurance” mechanism in place to check the activities of HEIs in the country. The National University Commission, NUC, and similar establishments should be saddled with the responsibility to monitor, evaluate and approve the services of HEIs to ensure compliance with current international standards.
Economic recession and expatriates in employment are issues of national economic policies. They are symptoms of poor economic policies. If sound economic policies are initiated and implemented, economic recessions and expatriates in employment may not result to graduate unemployment in the country. During economic recessions, nations and governments make deliberate efforts to x-ray their economies—sector-by-sector, industry-by-industry—to determine the health of the economies in terms of economic growth and job creation/loss. That, I guarantee, will reduce the impact of economic recession on graduate employment.

The institution of NYSC in 1973 was a good idea aimed at fostering national unity. It was a creation of the government, and is not in any way the cause of graduate unemployment in the country.  However, NYSC should evolve, and improve on its services. Mobilizing HEI graduates and deploying them to various government establishments and private organizations for national service is not enough. NYSC should be scaled up. The quasi employments given to corps members by public and private organizations should be recognized and accepted as mentoring and apprenticeship engagements which are meant to prepare them for real employment after service. If NYSC is redesigned to function as a mentorship and apprenticeship scheme, it will increase the chances of graduates to secure decent and sustainable jobs after youth service.
The inclusion of Technical Skills Acquisition disguised as entrepreneurship programme into NYSC scheme reveals the sickly state of HEIs in the country. Where graduates are now subjected to such trainings like bead and soap making, computer training (ICT), tailoring, cloth dying and coloring, welding, animal husbandry, etc, in order to become self-employed speaks ill of our efforts in tackling graduate unemployment. Pushing graduates into self-employment will only amount to a waste of scarce resources.
Self-employment is not entrepreneurship, and acquiring technical skills cannot make one an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship may lead to self-employment but it is not self-employment. So, if NYSC plans to improve graduate employability, it should initiate a “pure” Graduate Entrepreneurship Programme. Graduates should be ‘pulled’ into entrepreneurship and not ‘pushed’.
Graduate attitude to some type of jobs and sometimes their location may lead to unemployment. To minimize graduate unemployment due to the above factor, it is expedient to make entrepreneurship education an integral part of HEIs’ curricula across the nation. And this will positively affect the search behaviour of employers and job seekers in relation to work and business.
Globalization has flattened the world. Big corporations around the world are relying heavily on technology in order to stay and remain competitive in the global marketplace. And this is why HEIs in developed countries are working in collaboration with Multi-national and Transnational Companies to develop graduates through entrepreneurship as a career option which gives them the opportunity to set up enterprises that produce goods and offer services to the public. Nigerian HEIs should learn to collaborate with large companies in the country to enable them develop graduates suitable for the available jobs in such companies. I make bold to say that no matter how important technologies are, the human capital still rank first in the scale of production inputs. 
Rural- urban migration is mainly a result of unemployment and less its cause. Lack of adequate physical infrastructural development has affected the economies of most rural communities in the country thus making it difficult for them to create economic opportunities and decent and sustainable employment for the teeming population of HEI graduates. Physical development plans in Nigeria are biased against rural communities. Plans to develop the rural communities are not well articulated. Rural electrification and road construction are not enough to spur real economic activities in the rural communities. Effective rural economic development policies are required to reinvigorate the economies of rural communities in the country. Such economic policies should include rural entrepreneurship development.
Rural-urban migration may only lead to an increase in the number of graduate unemployment and not cause it.
Formal – informal sector differentials may cause graduate unemployment (underemployment), and as well, be a creation of graduate unemployment. There has been an increase in the growth of the informal sector of the Nigerian economy due to massive unemployment amongst the people. Unemployed Nigerians, especially young graduates, are being pushed into self-employment and necessity entrepreneurship which make up the activities in the informal sector of the economy. Economic activities in the informal sector are less regulated and thus cheap to initiate. It is easy for HEI graduates to enter the labour market through the informal sector than it is through the formal. The formal sector loss is the informal sector gain. And these differentials are results of graduate unemployment than the causes.
However, the Nigerian government can reduce the formal-informal sector differentials by initiating policies and programmes aimed at transforming economic activities in the informal sector to the formal through entrepreneurship. Enterprises with potentials for high-growth can be identified and assisted to transit and participate in the formal sector thus creating economic opportunities and hence decent and sustainable jobs for HEI graduates.
Until we deal with the root cause of graduate unemployment in the country, attending to the symptoms will yield no tangible results.
In conclusion, I would like submit that the introduction of entrepreneurship education to graduates as an integral part of their courses will increase their chances in securing decent and sustainable jobs before and immediately after graduation. A “pure” entrepreneurship education will help HEI graduates to become ‘wage-providers’ instead of being ‘wage-takers’. The Nigerian government should promote and encourage entrepreneurship among public servants. Public policies and programmes should be entrepreneurial and innovative. Rural economic development should be promoted, encouraged and supported through entrepreneurship. And a formal-informal sector transit policy should be enacted to minimize the growth of the informal sector in expense of the formal.

FGN AND AMNESTY GRADUATES: WHERE ARE THE JOBS?


The Nigerian oil sector has been the bread winner of the Nigerian national economy following the abysmal decline in the agricultural sector and near extinction of the manufacturing sector. It contributes more than half of the total amount of Nigerians’ national income. Other sectors of the economy are either undeveloped, underdeveloped or ‘confused’ due to total ignorance, abandonment, negligence and declining investments thus contributing little or nothing to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Operating a mono-economy, with little but failing efforts at diversification has created a rift between the oil producing states and the non-oil producing states of the country. Agitations for resource ownership and control by the oil-producing states have heightened tensions and its consequences over some decades now.
The increasing activities of multi-national and trans-national oil companies in the oil-rich region have left it with severe social, economic and environmental challenges. Most of the communities and people living within areas of oil exploration, extraction and refining have lost their means of livelihood with little or no alternatives. And this has given birth to many group of activists and militants in the region. The activities of MEND, a supposed umbrella body of all forms of activism in the region, are widely heard and known; and the presence of militia groups across the Niger Delta Region is well recognized.
The social, economic and infrastructural development of the oil-rich region is being on the decline despite its huge contributions to national economic growth and development. These do not mean that there were no attempts to invest in the development of the region. It may be that such attempts at developing the region were not well conceived, coordinated and articulated and were fraught with corruption.
Being faced with a declining oil production and loss of oil revenues due to oil theft, kidnapping, militancy and youth restiveness in the region, both the oil companies and the federal government, made concerted efforts to address the critical issues of environmental degradation, loss of economic opportunities, poor and inadequate infrastructures, etc being faced by the communities, people and the entire region. These led to the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta by the present democratic government. Shells, Chevron and other multi-national oil companies in the country also took steps to engage the services of experts through their corporate social responsibility plans to increase their social investment in communities affected by their activities.
Today, the present government is investing a substantial amount of money in an on-going Amnesty Programme which includes capacity building through education and training in various skills for “ex-militants” coupled with a sort of social welfare payment after an initial disarmament exercise. Over 30,000 men and women are expected to undergo various trainings of their own choices under the proposed plan.
Since the introduction of the Amnesty programme, there has been a decline in the level of militancy and a return of relative peace in the region.
Besides the Amnesty programme is an Infrastructural Development Road Map Plan for the entire oil-rich region. But none seems to be happening with regards to the “Development Road Map”.
We should remember that the rise of activism, militancy and youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region were the results of the gross underdevelopment experienced by the communities and people since the commencement of oil exploration and extraction in the region. Activism and militancy in this oil-rich region were only symptoms of the problem mentioned above. Addressing the symptoms in expense of the actual problem of underdevelopment suffered by the communities and people will amount to a waste of precious time and scarce resources. Equal or more attention and resources—human and materials—should be committed to the infrastructural and economic development of the region to avoid a possible recurrence of militancy and youth restiveness in the region at the end of the programe in 2015. Treading the development of the region for the Amnesty programme (that is, “tokenism”) will spell doom in the nearest future.
But, my concern is the fact that we now have a growing army of “graduates” from the various skills acquisition centers and educational institutions within and outside the country. Recently, over 200 youths have been trained and certified as pilots from reputable training institutions outside the country. And there are many others that have acquired professional skills and qualifications in different trades and disciplines since the beginning of the Amnesty programme. But what modality is in place to absorb this growing army of young graduates?
What is the state of the economies of the oil-rich states? What is the level of economic activities in the individual states? Are the states prepared to accommodate these young graduates? This is a concern that must be shared by the federal government and the states given the increasing number of youth unemployment in the country especially among young graduates. The recent protest by unemployed youths in Bayelsa State is an indication that the Niger Delta states may experience a new dimension of youth restiveness if the issue of youth unemployment is not taken seriously given the surge in the supply of graduates from the Amnesty programme.
I am convinced that most of the education and training offered to youths under the Amnesty programme are to make them ‘wage-takers’ rather than ‘wage-providers’: a welfare kind of education and training which support passive rather than active approach to potential or actual unemployment. For those that are expected to become self-employed by reason of their education and training, there is a possibility that less than 20 percent of these individuals will become self-employed, and less than 10 percent will remain self-employed three years after graduation. The simple reason is because they are being pushed into self-employment instead of being pulled. And any supposed entrepreneurship training with self-employment as an outcome will only lead to “necessity entrepreneurship”.
In order to stimulate and create economic activities and opportunities in the oil-rich Niger Delta states and the country at large, I would like to suggest that a National Entrepreneurship Policy and Strategy be initiated by the governments. And this should be followed by a National Entrepreneurship Education Strategy. A National Office for Innovation and Entrepreneurship should be created to coordinate and promote the development of entrepreneurship in the country. This will drive economic growth, job creation and the development of a vibrant formal small- and medium-sized (SME) business sector. It may also improve and strengthen the nation’s global competitiveness. A Presidential Taskforce on Entrepreneurship Education should be constituted to promote entrepreneurship education in all types/levels of education in the country. Both the National and State Assemblies should enact laws to cater to the development of high-growth small businesses, and to encourage innovations in medium and large local enterprises. The state governments should set up offices of entrepreneurship policies to make and coordinate policies that will create a conducive business environment for micro-, small- and large-scale enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive.
In conclusion, the Amnesty Programme is being so far very successful given the increase in the production of oil and the return of relative peace to the region. There has also been an increase in revenue accruing to the government from the sales of oil in the oil-rich states. However, it is important for the governments to initiate strategies and policies capable of generating the much needed economic opportunities thus creating more jobs for young graduates from the Amnesty Programme and higher-education institutions in the region and the country at large. The integration of entrepreneurship education into all types/levels of school programmes in the country will provide graduates with job options. 
The federal, state and local governments should not forget to address the various and peculiar challenges faced by the communities and people. Neglecting the issues of development faced by the communities and the people which have far reaching impacts on the entire region than the Amnesty Programme will erase the gains realized so far since the commencement of the Amnesty programme.