How to Drastically Reduce Unemployment

by suleimanharuna

One of the most critical questions facing any government today is how it could reduce the spate of unemployment among its citizens. No country, whether big or small can deny this problem. Instead of employment however, what is becoming the glaring reality, is the need to sack more people. This can easily be explained away on increasing automation, necessity of cuts on personnel and overhead spending, and improved human resource management, which always points to trimmer systems. The issue therefore is not to employ, but to sack.
How did the world get to such a pass? The question of engaging idle minds so they don’t turn out to be ‘devil’s workshop’ has continued to be one of the most primary challenges of humanity. For one, there are too many people to engage. Every year, millions turn 18, out of which many graduate from schools, with certificates or as failures and pool themselves into the vast ocean called labour market. Lucky ones who have skills from their education or their chosen vocations find avenues to employ themselves or get employed. Millions more continue the ‘more you look, less you see’ struggle.
Nigeria’s Minister of National Planning had declared that unemployment rate for 2011 stood at 23.9%; which translates to almost 40 million citizens. Another figure from the National Bureau of Statistics had indicated that over 70% of Nigerians live on a USD a day or less. These figures have actually been rolling over for decades to reach the monumental level they are today.
Governments, apart from the key responsibility of ensuring security for life and property are also mandated to provide a means of livelihood for their citizens. Resources to employ are always scarce, useful skills are always low, while, not addressing the situation is breeding fresh problems for the polity. Intelligent youths set their minds to do the only thing left to do; use their heads, literally. They defraud, kidnap, rob, and even do the unthinkable, give up hope and go into suicidal missions.  It is therefore not an option for governments to allow this to happen as the repercussions are far worse than the fear of the cost of getting everyone engaged.
Now, how do you drastically reduce the number of these unemployed citizens? It is by coming up with stop gap programmes that can engender hope among them and douse the desperation that follows their despondence. Not all job seekers are looking for N100,000-a-month jobs. Most would gladly accept lower pay that could address their immediate needs, while still looking ahead to better opportunities. These stop gap efforts, by virtue of their low financial implication can go round many people.
Remember the partial withdrawal of petroleum subsidy at the dawn of 2012? It sparked off recriminations within the polity such that government had to guarantee that the funds accrued from the subsidy withdrawal would be re-infused into the system, through a Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, which was quickly launched early February, 2012. One half goes into development of critical infrastructure and the other in developing social safety nets, the funds are shared among the three tiers of Government.
The safety net angle led to the introduction of the Community Services, Women and Youth Empowerment Program in October, 2012, which oversees the Community Services Scheme, meant for the unskilled and uneducated. So far, about 120,000 Nigerians are benefiting from the scheme. The Graduate Internship Scheme is meant for unemployed graduates. Each beneficiary is to benefit for a period of one year, after which it is assumed they would have improved their employability in the labour market, or even get retained by their firms of engagement, or even seek other opportunities through other government programmes like the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin), where they can develop business plans and get loans to run their businesses independently.
The workability of the Graduate Internship Scheme depends largely on the involvement of Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations as well as private business enterprises in all sectors of the economy. They need to request for such interns. Over 70,000 Nigerian graduates, far higher than the 50,000 per year threshold of the programme have applied and have been registered; only a few hundred however, have been engaged. The firms have a number of advantages if they engage the graduates. They get free labour at government expense as government will pay the monthly stipends of the interns, they get to select the best interns to join their workforce and they get a cost-free opportunity to render their Corporate Social Responsibility. The project is also planning other incentives like tax rebates for companies registered with the Project.
The problem of unemployment is having its impact on all citizens and all sectors of the economy. It is only through inter-sectoral synergy therefore, that the problem of youth unemployment can be tackled. Government has provided the funds and the enablement, the youths are willing, registered and ready; what remains is for firms to do their own bit by engaging them.