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Youth Employment: Then and Now

15 February 2016, 14:17 Isaac Asabor

If there is any generation of Nigerians that has never been fortunate enough to have a fair share of Nigeria’s economic boom at anytime it was so blessed, it is unarguably the present generation of Nigerian youths. There is no denying the fact that they have at a various times witnessed the short lived boom period after the major one some decades ago that spurred a then serving president to boastfully announce to the world that  "Money is not Nigeria's problem, but how to spend it".

Ironically, despite the short lived boom periods witnessed by the youths, the evidence cannot be said to have reflected on them as to their quest for employment, higher education and comfortable living. Their challenges have always been that of struggling to survive; almost by each passing day as corrupt leaders are bereft of thinking of the future of the entire youths in the country.

There is no denying the fact that the hopeless realities which the present generation of Nigerian youths are confronted with in the  labour market were never imagined in the past by any of those that witnessed the boom period of the Nigerian labour market when undergraduates were then fortunate enough to secure mouth-watering jobs even before graduation while some less fortunate ones secured well-paying jobs few months after graduation.

Then, the labour market was seemingly in a perfect state that any experienced graduate was literarily sought after like a chaste bride by the recruitment teams of various multinational companies. It was said that some companies went as far as establishing their presence in some of the few universities that existed then apparently to catch young and brilliant students before they graduated. Though the foregoing may sound like a fairy tale to the youths of today but that was how favourable the labour market was to the youths, especially the comparatively few that were graduates.

Youths with school certificates and at best with National Certificate of Education, NCE,  were also not denied the opportunities that existed then in the labour market as some of them secured jobs in both public and private organizations. Some of the lucky ones among them rose through the ranks by attending short courses. Some of them that secured admissions to study in either local or foreign universities were granted study leave. With this, many ambitious youths were able to re-join the company that granted him or her study leave.

The irony of it all is that those that benefited from the eating of this National cake are the same people that are making life difficult for the youths of today. Not only is the problem of youth employment caused by the unprogressive activities of corrupt leaders, the realities of today’s labour market glaringly reveal that the mechanism of supply is far greater than that of  demand. Succinctly put, the labour market is saturated. Even those that are gainfully employed are literally hanging on the precipice of uncertainties as they could be thrown into the saturated labour market at any time for no good reason.

Today, a vacancy advertisement in a newspaper for an existing position, say an “Administrative Assistant” may elicit thousands of responses from unemployed youths that are mostly graduates. The realities in the labour market today are so bad that even greedy expatriates of Asian stock now treat their Nigerian employees in a way that is reminiscent of the days of slavery.

Due to the saturation of the labour market, most graduate applicants now apply  for lower jobs, yet most of them are rebuffed by some employers, particularly expatriates of Asian origin who now seem to be making mockery of the situation. There are cases where young graduate applicants were contemptuously invited to participate in various recruitment exercise only to be collectively treated like the rag tag and bobtail.

On the contrary, this writer witnessed the period when secondary school students that were seemingly tired of continuing their education dropped out from class 4 in the secondary school, applied for what was then known as G4 certificate, while those who did not pass their school certificate examinations were rated as S.75 holders. Despite the collective low value of the foregoing certificates then, their holders were able to secure jobs as clerical assistants in some good organisations. Today, most of them are managers in various sectors of the economy.

The essence of the foregoing analysis is to let some readers understand why the present PDP government of President Goodluck Jonathan needs to treat the issue of unemployment as a matter of priority. The reason for this cannot be farfetched as it is very obvious that unemployment has remained one of the major factors causing insecurity in the country.

The question now is, “What happened along the line that the labour market has become ignominiously saturated that expatriates from less endowed countries are now beginning to see our graduates as hewers of wood and drawers of water?

First and foremost, vacancies that exist in government ministries, departments and agencies are no longer advertised for the benefits of all Nigerians through the media or through official gazettes. Information on vacancies existing in government establishments are somewhat shrouded in secrecy by top civil servants, which are later made known to politicians. It appears they have decided to make it secret only to be revealed to their close relations and political associates. The foregoing sums up one of the negative Nigerian factors called “man-know-man” syndrome. It is not an exaggeration to say that for any unemployed youth to secure job in any government institution these days he must be literarily connected to any of the members of the ruling party; either at the local, state or federal level.

Secondly, it seems government at all levels have shirked their responsibilities of creating jobs for the teeming youth population. It is very unfortunate that the critical issue of employment has now been politicised to the detriment of millions of Nigerians.

In 1983 this writer registered with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity as a job seeker. As expected then, he was assisted in securing an interview with a manufacturing company at Ilupeju, Lagos, though he was not employed. But it was a step in the right direction. Today, many vulnerable job seekers are left in the hands of dubious recruitment agencies that are at the moment mushrooming in all the cities and on the websites.

Most of these self-acclaimed recruitment agencies are wont to drop names of reputable organisations in order to hoodwink unsuspecting and desperate job seekers who are often fleeced through different guises. It could be through payment for form, processing fee, CV design fee and various spurious names invented to rip off job seekers.

The labour market is in this crisis due to the abysmal negligence and levity being exhibited by the government at all levels. In other climes, the issue of spurious employment agencies ripping off vulnerable youths would never come to play as there would have been statutory measures to nip it in the bud.

Moreso, it appears governments have literarily conspired not to create jobs for  unemployed youths. Or how else can one explain the prevailing state of laxity from government quarters, so to say? Today, most businessmen are frustrated from businesses as a result of epileptic power supply, unjustified and multiple tax payments to virtually all levels of government and prevailing high interest rates charged on money borrowed from banks. Given these militating factors, how would it be possible for the private sector to create jobs for the unemployed and in turn keep themselves and their family members away from the biting effects of the harsh economy?

Also, the insincerity being exhibited by most of our leaders is palpable. For instance, most politicians at the climax of their political campaigns are wont to rhetorically make promises that if they are voted into political positions by the electorates that they would  create millions of jobs for the youths during their tenure. This rhetoric of job creation, in my view, has been overflogged by our political leaders. To me, they only use this rhetoric to achieve cheap political gains. For the umpteenth time, Nigerians have been told that millions of jobs would be created in the oil and gas sector. But alas! as at the time of writing this piece, job opportunities in the oil and gas sector has remained an illusion to many job seekers. Nigerians have equally been told the same story by political office holders in the agricultural sector. Surprisingly, the only opportunity that is available in the agricultural sector today is that of a traditional peasant farming that has the job responsibilities that is diametrically opposed to what the youths learnt from various tertiary institutions across the country.

In my view, government at all levels should begin to see the creation of jobs for unemployed Nigerian youths as topmost priority. They should stop politicizing it. Many Nigerian youths  want the boom era of the labour market to begin to manifest in this 21st century. It is possible if our political leaders are sincere.

Isaac Asabor 

- MyNews24

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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