The nation’s rising unemployment rate must be checked before it gets out of control. The latest unemployment figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that the number of unemployed Nigerians rose to 20.9 million in third quarter (Q3) of 2018 from 17.6 million in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2017. The figures also showed that unemployment rate rose to 23.1 percent at the end of Q3 of 2018, up from previous 18.8 percent in the corresponding quarter in 2017.
Experts are of the view that the statistics of the unemployed may be much higher than the figures revealed by NBS. With doubt, the NBS unemployment figures paint a grim picture of the job crisis in the country. In fact, the situation is a time bomb that may explode any time soon with unpleasant consequences if nothing is done to remedy the situation. The highlights of the NBS report revealed that economically active or working population (15-64 years of age) increased from 111.1million in Q3, 2017 to 115.5 million in Q3, 2018. Besides, the NBS noted that of the 20.9 million persons classified as unemployed as at the Q3, 2018, 11.1m did some form of work, but for too few hours a week, while 9.7m unemployed did absolutely nothing. Of the 9.7m that was reported to have done nothing within the Q3, 2018, 90.1 percent of them or 8.77 million were jobless because they were first time job seekers and have never worked before.
In terms of unemployment by gender, the report disclosed that 26.6 percent of women within the labour force (aged 16-64) and willing, able and actively seeking work, were unemployed during the period under review. This is 6.3 percentage points higher than unemployment rate for men, which is 20.3 percent, and 3.5 percentage points higher than the total labour force unemployment rate, which is 23.1 percent. For women, this also represents 5.4 percentage point increase in unemployment from the same period of 2017. In addition, by age group, the picture is scary, as unemployment rate for young Nigerians aged 15 to 24, stood at 36.5 percent, and 24.4 percent for those aged between 24 and 34, making the total youth unemployment rate 29.7 percent for Q3, 2018. This represents 4.2 percentage point increase in the youth unemployment rate compared to that of Q3, 2017. Again, this figure could be higher than what NBS has stated.
The rising unemployment rate is worrisome and government’s apparent failure to curb it is equally disturbing. It will be recalled that NBS in its report of unemployment figures in the last quarter of 2017, predicted that Nigeria would experience higher unemployment rate in 2018 and advised government at all levels to apply good economic measures that will create jobs. It noted in the Q3, 2017 report that the rate of unemployment would increase at a faster rate for urban dwellers because of rural to urban migration. That warning was seemingly unheeded. As the latest statistics have shown, this is the highest unemployment rate since 2009. Until now, unemployment rate in the country in the past decade averaged 9.76 percent, reaching 19.70 percent in 2009, but dropped to a record low of 5.10 percent in the last quarter of 2010.
Undoubtedly, unemployment is a threat to national security and peace. We urge the government to come up with new initiatives to create jobs. It is not enough to make promises on job creation. This is time to fulfill such promises.
Rising youth unemployment can worsen the nation’s general insecurity. The recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report that Nigeria has reached 50 percent on the world’s misery index underscores the need to address the rising unemployment. Therefore, the government should frontally tackle the scourge.