EXPANDING EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE YOUTHS: THE SELF EMPLOYMENT IMPERATIVE
University of Lagos
“World Youth Report, 2012 according to United Nations says and I quote “With less experience and fewer skills than many adults, young people often encounter particular difficulty accessing work. The global youth unemployment rate, which has long exceeded that of other age groups saw its largest annual increase on record in 2009, at its peak 75.8 million young people are unemployed”. Jeffrey A. Joerres, CEO and President of Man Power Group, in his book titled “Entering the Human Age, 2011” also says and I quote “The world is on the cusp of entering a new reality in which human potential itself will become the major agent of economic growth”.
Self-employment is the act of generating one’s income directly from customers, clients or other organization as opposed to being an employee of a business or person. Self-employed people generally find their own work rather than being provided with work by an employer, earning income from a trade or business that they operate. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) defines Employment as an employed as the highest amounts of skilled and unskilled labour that could be employed within an economy at any given time.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM AND ITS EFFECTS
In Nigeria, unemployment has become one of the most serious socio-economic problems confronting the country. The magnitude of this can be appreciated if accurate statistics could be obtained from the Federal Bureau of Statistics on the number of unemployed youths roaming the streets of Nigerian cities. However, Awogbenle and Iwuamadi (2010) observed from the excerpts of statistics obtained from the National Manpower Board and Federal Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria has a youth population of eighty (80) million representing 60 percent of the total population of the country. Sixty four (64) million of them are unemployed while one million six hundred thousand (1.6 million) are underemployed.
Self-employment is local to the Yoruba people especially people living in the now Nigeria territory, it was the British administration that introduced wage labour. Wogu Ananaba (1969) did say that;
“The economy of the various states which make-up modern Nigeria was basically a subsistence economy and custom had established the practice that people should serve their parents and village heads and the community without remuneration. On a given day, people went and work for a particular individual. Through the day, the man they served was responsible for their food and drink. On another day, the man returned the service and it went on until everybody in the group was served”.
The above quote from the scholar has greatly confirmed that self-employment was synonymous to the entire people that make up the Nigeria culture especially the Yoruba people.
Nigeria with half the population of West Africa and a vast spread of natural resources endowment has the potential to be the source of growth and prosperity for the whole region. Nigeria’s current economic under-performance is erratic and short of expectations such that 66% of Nigeria’s citizens, educated youths especially live below 1 USD (One United States Dollar) a day or 300 USD (Three Hundred United States Dollars) a year (UNHRC, 2006). This is an indication that the nation of Nigeria over the years has gradually disintegrated from its highly buoyant and respected position among developing nations.
Nigeria is economically under-productive, relative to its potential for significant development. Again, Nigeria’s capacity to employ its own population seems to diminish progressively despite the country’s quantifiable fiscal ability resulting from the production and sale of oil. The level of unemployment in Nigeria appears to grow geometrically every year in contrast to its regional neighbours most of who have far lesser resources.
It is not an understatement that Nigeria’s overdependence on crude oil since the oil boom of the early 70’s has hazardous effect on the unemployment rate because several researches and statistics had shown constant decrease in employment rate and opportunities and constant increase in poverty and child mortality rate. Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) constant reduction of the price of crude oil and quota system has thus affected Nigeria and will surely lead to fall in revenue and development in Nigeria as her economy is based mostly on crude oil.
The inability of the nation to expand and explore other sectors of the economy such as education, health, technology and science, infrastructure and the forsaken agricultural sector will not only affect the economy but on the physical and psychological wellbeing of the youths. No wonder the United Nations when abolishing the Structural Adjusted Programme (SAP) in Africa said, “Africa is producing what it does not need and need what it does not have”.
Also as the external indebtedness of Nigeria and other African countries grew due to constant decrease in the price of Crude oil and the failure of SAP, they had to take more loans and the conditions attached to it became tougher e.g. payment period shortened, period of moratorium was reduced, price for servicing loans increased etc., before they could know what was happening, the economy had sank into deeper debt crises. With this, the government could no longer meet the need of the people; the industrial capabilities of the state had gone down significantly; factories were closing down or relocating, many could not break even thereby causing mass unemployment.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that unemployment impedes Nigeria’s progress in many ways and that self-employment is the only way out of the situation because unemployment apart from being economic waste, it also constitutes danger for political stability. It is disturbing to note that Nigeria’s youth have limited chances of becoming gainfully employed. It is even more disheartening that the country’s economic condition is such that, it is hardly able to absorb an optimal proportion of the production of its own educational system. Gone are the days when employers go about looking for employees. It is now the turn of employees to move from one office to the other seeking non-existing jobs. Most people who cannot earn their living are prone to social vices. They look at themselves as second class citizens for being unable to contribute to the society. The state of unemployment can lead to depression, low self-esteem, frustration and a number of other negative consequences on the economy which according Bello (2003) are low Gross Domestic Product, crime and violence, unproductive labour force, psychological effect, family support, bad effect on health and political instability. Unemployment in Nigeria is indeed a pathetic situation that calls for urgent attention, hence the need for self-employment.
Decline in access to shelter, education and health care, nutrition are drastically reduced which ultimately led to reduction in life span. NLC (2012) assert that bodied employment growth and improvement in the GDP had not transform into social wellbeing, adding that unemployment had aggravated the spate of insecurity among other vices in the polity.
The National Bureau of Statistics opined that in 2010, 65% of Nigeria’s wealth is owned by 20% of the population, which manifest itself in so many dimensions such as concentration of wealth on the hands of few individuals while many are in abject poverty. Inequality in income, poverty and unemployment has led to increase in violent crimes in Nigeria. According to Hallary (2012), he asserts that the crisis in Nigeria was as a result of failure in governance to address socio-economic issues especially youth unemployment.
Unemployment increases government’s expenditure or transfer payments where welfare programs are implemented in favour of the unemployed.
In response to the alarming unemployment situation, Nigerian governments at various times have made attempts to solve the nagging unemployment problem by setting up various solution agencies. Notable among these agencies are the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP). However, it is on record that these attempts have not made any significant impact on youth unemployment (Omorodion, 2010).
A keynote address by Dr Akinola, former Primate of Anglican Church Communion of Nigeria at a youth conference in Abuja (2004) attended to the issue of “youth and graduate unemployment and its many attendant problems”, alluding to “idle hands becoming Satan’s workshop”. While conceding that no ready solutions availed him, he hinted at the fact that unemployed youths (especially graduates) had been ensnared by drugs, alcohol, crime such as 419 (Advanced Fee Fraud), armed robbery and other vices.
Dr Akinola did not mince words about many of Nigeria’s graduates searching and waiting endlessly for government, under what he described as the “illusion that the government owes one a job and a living”. On those grounds, the Primate advised youths to shift their mindset “from being someone else’s staff to becoming their own bosses”. He challenged them to demonstrate creativity, ingenuity and innovativeness and to collaborate and start small ventures of their own.
Supporting the views advanced by Dr Akinola, Mallum opined that the reason why there is unemployment is not just having more people than the available jobs or overpopulation but because of the clamour for ‘white collar jobs’ or ‘government work’. As Mallum (2004) succinctly puts it “this has killed people’s initiative from thinking and looking for other means of livelihood in the society”.
In a country where there are anomies i.e. citizens who are underemployed, unemployed or temporary out of labour force, these anomies will definitely be deviance which operationally is engaging in criminal activities, political violence, advance fee fraud (419) and by the way also become political aliens i.e. feel a sense of distrust, powerlessness and meaninglessness about the government and political process and if adequate attention is not given anarchy may ensue.
THE WAY FORWARD
Entrepreneurship is not just skill acquisition for acquisition sake; it is an acquisition of skills and ideas for the sake of creating employment for oneself and also for others. It also includes the development based on creativity (Oseni, Momoh and Momodu, 2012). Entrepreneurship leads to the development of small, medium and sometimes large scale businesses based on creativity and innovation. The success of these businesses in turn helps in developing the nation’s economy. It equally reduces poverty rate with visible increment in employment rate among the youth. Entrepreneurship shifts young people from being “job seekers” to “job creators” and also from social dependence to self-sufficient people. However, training is very essential in entrepreneurship.
Self-employment can be attained through vocational and technical education. Vocational education is a form of education in which people are provided with practical skills which allow them to engage in careers which involve manual or practical abilities. Some examples of careers for which people can receive vocational training include aviation mechanics, hotel management, hair styling, plumbing, air conditioner installation, cab driving, carpentry, building, masonry, welding, electrical and electronics technicians, information and communication technology (ICT), weaving, mechanic, hair dressing, tailoring, barbing, real estate development, haulage and logistics, Inland water transport, Call center agency, outsourced bus service, e-services, daycare services, waste management, food processing, alternative power installation, plantation farming, graphics, artistry and printing just to mention a few. Youths that acquire vocational training and qualification are designed to prepare to be self-employed. Also with practical experience in any of these trades, youths can be assured that they can set up a business on their own and become employer of labour.
Apart from the qualifications that youths possess, there are other attributes (non-academic skill requirement) which youth can possess. These attributes include analytical skills and good communication skills, good personal and social skills, technical and managerial skills among others.
There is the need to take into cognizance the expectations of graduates and youths for non-existing white collar jobs while their background does prepare them to take advantage of self-employment, especially in the informal sector.
To prevent unemployment, it is necessary to begin diverting, counseling right from primary school level. In line with this, Mallum (2004) opined that vocational decision making and self-employment begins in childhood and continues throughout life.
Exposing children to a world of career opportunities gives them ample opportunity to know which career opportunities are available and are of their own interest and capability. Toward this end, counseling activities about self-employment should continue from primary through secondary to tertiary institutions. This is because it gives a kind of education known as ‘shock absorber education’ and broadens youth’s horizons.
Counseling as part of education enables youth of whatever level of education to be able to absorb the shock of not being employed and to focus on being self-employed.
Career guidance services should be made compulsory and provided for all level of education to help youths in making realistic career choice. The efficiency of any career guidance effort will be dramatically enhanced if it begins early in life and becomes a way of thinking.
Work-Study programme is an attempt to provide practical experiences of the world of work to students as they learn in the classroom. This is aimed at linking classroom experiences to the world of work, thus making youths independent and self-employed. Work-Study programme should be encouraged by the government so as to help the youth and to reduce the unemployment rate.
The National Policy on Education did indicate that with the introduction of pre-vocational subjects at the Junior Secondary School level, the technical subjects at the Senior Secondary School, the artisans would be employed to teach the students the art of these vocations, thus which may make them self-employed. This implied that the graduates of our school system have prepared only for education and not for the world of work. But sadly enough, this policy has only operated on paper.
The situation on ground today as far as expansion of employment opportunity for youth and self-employment is concerned calls for a concerted effort at implementing the tenants of the National Policy of Education.
Youths should not only be guided to career choice but equally be exposed to various skills that could be of help to them. Toward this end, vocational courses should be included in the curriculum at all levels of Nigerian Educational system and Work -Study programme should be considered and intensified.
Tertiary institutions should help youths (students) to develop skills that will help them to be marketable in the world of work, job-hunt and to be self-employed. Tertiary institutions should embark on curricula innovations as a necessary step in making sure their products are exposed to the necessary skills, competencies and strategies they require to secure or create employment easily for themselves and the several others who are waiting on the vending employment queues outside the tertiary institutions.
Tertiary institutions in collaboration with the government should plan the curriculum in line with what is needed for youth performance in workplace, self-employment and national development. Literacy in Information Communication Technology (ICT) should be an integral part of the educational process and should be integrated into the curriculum at all levels of studies in tertiary institutions. The objective should be to empower Nigerian youths (graduates) with the information technology skills needed for performance in both workplace and private life.
Verbal and written communication should be introduced as a course and be made compulsory for all programmes in the tertiary institutions. This will improve youth communication skills.
Also, courses that are not marketable in the present day labour market due to their irrelevance to the present situation of the society should be faced out in tertiary institutions. Emphasis should be placed on marketable courses and self-employable courses; this should be a function of national development expectation.
The curricula of tertiary institutions have to be built around opportunity and initiative, persistence, commitment to work contracts, demand for efficiency and equality, risk taking, goal-setting, information seeking, systematic planning and monitoring, persuasion and networking, independence and correction factors.
In addition to above, tertiary institutions are also being expected to update their infrastructural facilities, retain their best students as lecturers and improve their funding so that youths (graduates) would be sufficiently equipped with appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude for effective participation in a very competitive global society.
In expanding employment opportunities for youths, the government should ensure that the economy is well diversified and proper attention; funding and management are accorded to other sectors that can create employment especially self-employment other than oil and gas sector.
The provision of education is productive investment in human capital, which is a stock of skills and knowledge acquired through schooling, the greater the stock of human capital in society and consequently, the increases in national productivity and economic growth. Thus, investment in human capital is a function of the potency of labour force to contribute meaningfully to growth of Gross National Product (GNP).
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt had stated, “Not only our future economic soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our government to give employment to idle men”. Government have a very big role to play by encourage self-employment by providing policies and laws that give youths the power for exploits. The small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) should be encouraged in finance; provision of loans, machines etc., advise; through productive programmes, seminars and setting up of “SME consulting board” that will see to the establishment and growth of SMEs.
In promoting youth self-employment, government should concentrate on those activities where youth are known to have more comparative advantage. Globally, modern information and communication technologies are offering significant opportunities for job creation. The Nigerian government should therefore explore how the ICT industries can provide new jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth. They could then take advantage of these exploration activities to mobilize the energies of the youth from destructive tendencies to productive people.
The government should ensure that the policy measures be strictly adhere to by encouraging the various financial institutions to grant soft loans to potential and prospective youths entrepreneurs in order to encourage small scale businesses.
Youths that are self-employed should enjoy certain benefits over those working for others so as to make self-employment attractive. These benefits should include; tax reduction, social security, independence, control, freedom from work depression, improved standard of living, prestige, dignity, pride and ability to manage their time.
Conclusively, no nation will have a prospect of measurable development or of improving the welfare of its people unless it expands the opportunity of employment for its youths through self-employment. It is obvious that unemployment impedes youth’s progress in many ways and that self-employment is the only way out of the situation. From the points raised above, one can easily induce that if self-employment is considered imperative for the expansion of youth employment, the nation will not only be highly buoyant and respected among developing nations but be peaceful and developed. In order to tackle unemployment in Nigeria, there is the need to counsel the unemployed for attitudinal re-orientation towards self-employment and self –reliance.
Adelodun S., How to be your own boss, Daily Sun: The Sun News online 2005
Akinyemi Samuel et al (2012): Graduate Turnout and Graduate Employment in Nigeria. International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Beveridge WH (1981), Causes and Cures of unemployment; London Green & co. Press
The Guardian (August 31st, 2010): Workers Skills and Job Requirements: is there a mismatch? The People’s Digest p.36