On global inaction over youth unemployment

Unemployment-2-CopyTHE worry expressed recently by the World Bank over the alarming rate of unemployment and absence of capacity enhancement for youths, on whom global growth would depend in decades to come, should be a source of concern for developing nations like Nigeria. An ever increasing population of unemployed youths amidst complicated global crises, hunger and forlornness is a recipe for cataclysmic global insecurity.

In a bewildering report released by World Bank partner, Solution For Your Empowerment (S4YE), a multi-stakeholder global coalition established to improve youth access to work opportunities, about one billion youths, approximately a third of the world’s 1.8 billion young people, are unemployed, uneducated or have no skilled training. While it further posited that the inability of youths to find sustainable productive work contributes to inequality, promotion of social tension and poses a risk to future global security and prosperity, it singles out amongst others, young women, youth in conflict-prone regions and fragile states as groups requiring attention.

Given this report, the fear expressed early in the year at the World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, where the pandemic nature of youth unemployment took the centre stage, still persists. What is this fear? It is that ill-trained or untrained incapacitated youths are seldom human resources. Like implements that cannot adequately cause anything to happen owing to the absence of the required efficiency, youths with poor capacity enhancement do not possess the wherewithal to manage an increasingly complex world. Moreover, it is the perceived inability of today’s young people to sustain current development process and the overall implication of this incapacitation to global safety and security that worry human development experts.

A country-by-country survey of the prospect of youth employment showed that there is declining optimism globally over employment amongst youths who are presently unemployed. India, which has one of the largest populations of young people in the world, has 75 million unemployed youths, with no fewer than one million injected into the workforce each day. In very rich Saudi Arabia, where 70 per cent of the population is below age of 30, youths are very much unemployed.

One ugly effect of this alarming rate of unemployment is the ready availability of youths to offer themselves as wiling foot-soldiers of the many terrorist groups springing up in crisis points around the world. Even if terrorist organisations cannot engage the teeming class of unemployed youths worldwide, the fact that those engaged are agency of destruction and global crisis should fill all with trepidation and consternation.

This revelation is once again, as always, a timely warning to Nigeria, a country, whose current youth unemployment status stands at 50 per cent amidst a struggling economy. In the last three decades, various governments in collaboration with private sector initiatives have attempted to establish self-employment generation programmes. However, these programmes, having been largely tokenist and tied to political patronage, have only paid lip service to addressing the issue.

The World Bank report continually provides an opportunity for Nigeria to embark on a rethink and launch a renewed commitment towards a result-oriented approach to addressing unemployment across the country. Nigeria should make employment generation an integral part of the problem-solving strategy of national development. If employment generation is tied to solving Nigeria’s peculiar problems rather than servicing other developed economies and their overseas representatives, establishing genuine massive employment-creating programmes may not be far-fetched.

However, the first step in this direction is adequate manpower planning to assess the labour needs of this country, and to deploy resources to areas of the economy that would meet these needs at a given time. As studies from experts in development of youth employment have shown, most nations that had to confront high unemployment, injected enormous funds into special areas of national interest.

This calls for total overhauling of the educational system. Nigeria’s educational system should be culture-centred and problem-solving, whilst, at the same time, gradually discouraging the idea of certification as another stage in life. It also demands proper harnessing and enhancement of talents, natural skills and aptitudes of young people. If this is to be feasible, efforts must be made to empower vocational qualification by promoting vocational education, where production skills could be developed and thereby deemphasise the misleading impression that acquisition of tertiary education is the only way to being respectably employed.

Apart from peculiar regional challenges, the problem of global youth unemployment has to do in part with the agency of socio-cultural imposition. Some of the problems of value disorientation among the youth emanate from exploitative developed societies, whose proffered solutions to challenges of young people undermine the peculiar traditions and cultures of these young people. In order to address problems facing the youth, wholesale solutions that do not consider the environment where the youths come from are thrown at them. This thinking that only a certain culture or civilisation owes the roadmap to global development should, therefore, be discouraged. A section of the human community, by its imposed values and ideas, should not dictate the movement of civilisation, and yet seek a concerted global effort to clean the mess made therefrom.

As a conscientious and deliberate development strategy, there is also the need to provoke a shift from the traditional idea of employment as mere work to one that views employment as participation in the economy.

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