Unemployment has been a bane of many countries, especially in Nigeria, as there are projections that the nation’s unemployment rate will reach an all-time high of 31.4% in 2021.
In this interview with Nairametrics, the Head, Research, Evaluation and learning efforts at Jobberman Nigeria, an online career portal, Femi Balogun, explained that not enough jobs are being created. In 2018, he said Nigeria only created about 450,000 new jobs while over 5 million people joined the labour force.
To him, limited interaction between employers and job seekers as well as policy and cultural constraints are at the core of the employment challenges the nation currently is facing. Excerpts:
How would you assess unemployment in Nigeria, especially with the second wave of Covid-19?
Unemployment has been a critical issue for the country and this has deepened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), between Q3 2018 and Q2 2020, Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose from 23.1% to 27.1%, while the underemployment rate rose from 20.1% to 28.6%. Recent projections also suggest that, in 2021, Nigeria’s unemployment rate will reach an all-time high of 31.4%.
A number of factors contribute to this. Firstly, is that not enough jobs are being created – in 2018 for instance, Nigeria only created about 450,000 new jobs while over 5 million people joined the labour force. Furthermore, gaps within our education system also contribute to this challenge as World Bank data suggests that 18 – 20% of tertiary graduates will require training interventions for about 1 – 4 years to become employable. At the same time, limited interaction between employers and job seekers as well as policy and cultural constraints are that core of the employment challenge we are currently faced with.
The issues that mitigate such high levels of unemployment and underemployment needs to be addressed with urgency.
If Nigeria is home to about half of West Africa’s young people, what size of the population are jobless?
With a population of 200 million, young people make up half of the country’s population. According to PWC unemployment is highest amongst youth between 15-34 years (41% amongst 15-24-year-olds and 31% amongst 25 – 34-year-olds), and this group constitutes 35% of the country’s population – one of the largest in the world.
Data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics has also shown that the number of unemployed 24-year-olds [40% of the youth labour force] in the country has almost tripled to 14 million since 2014.
How would you assess skill gaps in Nigeria and what sectors are most affected?
Our evaluation of the jobs market shows high competency in digital skills at entry-level positions but as the skills required advance, there is a dramatic fall in qualified candidates and applications made. For instance, there is an overwhelming skills gap in three subsectors – Software Development, Digital Analysis and Network & Cybersecurity.
Within the Software Development cluster, our findings indicate that 73% of job seekers rate their proficiency at a beginners level across skills such as computer programming, cloud infrastructure, UI/UX, web design, mobile development and design thinking. Likewise for Digital Analysis and Network & Cybersecurity clusters.
This creates a demand gap for positions such as Security Engineering, Data Science, Cyber Security and Security Architecture with a demand scale ranging between 10% and 45%.
Within the Digital Marketing sub-sector, data suggests growing competencies in social media management and content development with proficiency ratings above 40% at advanced levels. Identifying a skills gap in Sales, Marketing Campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation with proficiency levels as low as 8.13% and no higher than 16.92%.
Based on your experience and available data, what are the factors responsible for this gap?
Although young people are described as digital natives, there is a digital literacy gap which excludes young people from harnessing the opportunities that the digital economy presents. This can be attributed to challenges such as insufficient access to the internet, dated curriculum and lack of career development courses.
This challenge can, in part, be linked to gaps within the education system that prevents young people from developing skills (technical and soft skills) and gain the required confidence to be employable.
This gap in human capital optimisation is at the core of the inefficiency in Nigeria’s labour market as Nigeria captures only 49% of its full human capital potential, compared to a continental average of 55%, ranging from 67% in Mauritius to 44% in Chad
What role do you think the government can play in addressing these issues?
The improved performance of the digital sector is, in part, derived from improvements in reforms and governance. In order to take advantage of emerging opportunities within the digital sector, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy launched the National Digital Economic Policy and Strategy (NDEPS). This has helped to forge partnerships towards advancing an inclusive digital economy.
To achieve the goal of lowering the access barrier to digital tools for the citizens, the government has set a benchmark of 95% digital literacy rates to be achieved in the next ten years (2030) through States and LGAs support.
It is expected that through the policy, young people will be equipped with the necessary skills to acquire decent jobs while transforming Nigeria into a leading digital economy.
What precisely do you suggest government should do?
There are a number of things the government can do: One is to invest in Human Capital Development. The government can do well by strengthening education institutions and supporting reforms in education to develop industry-relevant curriculum for improved skills, while also galvanising support for digital skills and soft skills training especially for women and marginalised communities.
Another is to Create an Enabling Environment. A friendly regulatory environment is imperative for the digital economy to grow. Similarly, investing in infrastructure that enables ICT adoption (such as broadband internet and electricity) are crucial.
Support the Innovation Ecosystem: Courting public-private partnerships to stimulate and sustain the demand for the use of digital platforms as well as advancing policies that improve business climate will be useful in boosting investment opportunities.
What are the most sought after roles businesses are looking out for in the employment market based on the data from the Jobberman site?
We have seen an increase in roles in the technology sector since April 2020, when we ran our “Unity in Adversity” campaign. Technology had most of the new jobs with 18.79%, followed by banking, finance and insurance with 9.27% and education and training with 6.78%.
What can we do differently in our educational system to better prepare our graduates for the jobs out there?
A transparent jobs market which gathers live data about the various sectors, job demands and skills required will help to strengthen educational institutions and support reforms in education, as well as develop industry-relevant curriculum. Jobberman is striving for a 100% transparent market which will only be achieved when all jobs are posted online.
We are on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, children in primary school need to be developing IT skills so they can make the transition from school to work.
What are the challenges you go through gathering data?
I think it’s mostly the availability of accurate information. Data capture and storage is becoming increasingly important on the continent but we are just starting to build. We had to go through extra effort to make sure that all the information we provided in the report was true and up to date.
COVID-19 has made it even more difficult to collect data both quantitative and qualitative. Now we have to conduct interviews and focus group discussions online. The pandemic has also helped us to realise that online data collection is a growing culture with a wide gap to cover.