Data is a valuable asset in decision-making. This is particularly true in dealing with socio-economic issues where quality data and its in-depth analysis can improve livelihoods and even save the lives of many. Unemployment is one example where an economic problem becomes a social plague if data do not back its management.
In Nigeria, youth unemployment has acquired special acuteness due to the enormous demographic dividends — the median age in the country is 18.1 years, according to Worldometer, a global portal of real-time demographics data. Another global demographics portal, Countrymeters shares that there are presently over 87 million of youths below 15 years old in Nigeria who will soon enter the working age bracket and put more pressure on the national economy.
Despite the large scale of the youth unemployment problem, data remains limited in this area. Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics provides general unemployment statistics of 33.3%, with the percentage of unemployment among the youth standing at 42.5%. This data apparently suggests young Nigerians are particularly insecure in the face of unemployment, and many public and private organisations are resolute in joining forces and combating this notorious trend.
However, the availability only of such general data at the stakeholders` disposal is a deterrent to this cancerous growth that has been a point of growing concern for security and development experts as well as economists. The general data does not fully reflect all disguises of unemployment. For instance, Nigeria has six geo-political zones where youth unemployment is of different scales due to the contrastive development, security situation and level of business activity. The youth population also consists of women and men who, owing to social expectations and cultural patterns, adopt different strategies to cope with the unemployment problem, which in turn require different counter strategies from the stakeholders. Moreover, unemployed youths engage in unsustainable earning practices, some of which may pose a threat to their human capital development and, ultimately economic sustainability of the nation. All of these separate challenges require standalone solutions, as the unemployment problem can not be solved with generic interventions.
The latest report “How Young People Survive Without Jobs” by Jobberman, aims to close the data gap in Nigeria`s youth unemployment and provides regional insight into this problem. The report explores specific parameters of youth unemployment, such as regional and gender peculiarities, their most common survival strategies and unemployment duration. This research draws attention to the micro angles of this macro problem, each of which requires a special action plan by the stakeholders.
For example, the new data reveals that 78% of Nigerian youths have been unemployed for at least one year. In some regions, such as the North East and North West, the unemployment duration is especially alarming, with about 30% and 27% unemployed for more than five years, respectively. In this case, and these regions, it is more strategic to resolve a problem of not just unemployment but the employability of the youths whose skills have been dormant for several consecutive years.
It is interesting to add that the distribution of government support for unemployed youths in the North East is 14.71%, but 17.65% in the South West. Yet, the duration of unemployment in the North East is much longer than in the South West: 62.41% of the North Eastern youths stay unemployed for more than three years in comparison with 25.88% in the South West. According to this data, youths in the North East are in more acute need of employment support initiatives which gives a reason to reconsider the government safety net distribution per region.
Another high-alert revelation from the report is the spending patterns of the unemployed youths; 84% of money sourced from family and friends is spent on food and 10.19% on Internet data. This means unemployed young people are unable to meaningfully invest in their upskilling as they can satisfy only basic needs. A conclusion? Stakeholders should not only place unemployed youths into jobs as they may find it difficult to carry on job responsibilities but develop their human capital first to ensure a longer-term impact on their productivity.
Gender-lens youth unemployment also poses a number of micro-problems. For instance, men stay unemployed longer than women despite larger representation in the labour market. Simultaneously, only 33.44% of women hustle (do menial jobs and transient activities) versus 66.56% of men, and only 5.88% of women benefit from government support compared with an absolute majority of 94.12% of men. The data shows that both young men and women share the burden of unemployment. Where women actually need more inclusion, men require a system of support to reduce the duration of stay in the unemployment bucket.
To effectively solve the youth unemployment problem in Nigeria, public and private organisations should work in tandem to engage relevant partners to design region-specific interventions. In order to understand the impact and consequences of youth unemployment, stakeholders cannot only rely on abstract statistics; where detailed data has been provided, as in this instance, all stakeholders must interrogate their support initiatives to understand if it addresses the needs of the youths in each location. As a multifaceted problem, youth unemployment in Nigeria requires a multifaceted approach.
About the author
Founded in 2009, Jobberman is a digital platform that provides training and placement for jobseekers, as well as the best selection of candidates for companies hiring. It is the single largest job placement website in sub-Saharan Africa, aiming to strengthen economic sustainability with youth-specific research, training and advocacy programs. Jobberman Nigeria operates under The African Talent Company, a group of pan-African businesses working together to solve the talent gap in Africa with unique, homegrown solutions.