• Three reports highlight the need for Nigeria to invest in providing more and better jobs for its booming population.

    To reduce poverty and promote more inclusive growth, the World Bank reports say that Nigeria needs to create about 50 million additional jobs between 2010 and 2030 to meet the needs of the 170 million people and the growing population in the country.

    The report, - ‘More, and More Productive, Jobs for Nigeria’- gives an account of jobs, workers, and employment opportunities, while, ‘Understanding and Driving Private Sector Growth in Nigeria’ provides information on the constraints and drivers of firm-level growth and implications for employment.” 

    The third report, ‘Skills for Competitiveness and Employability’ scrutinizes the demand in priority economic and job growth sectors and how to ensure that Nigerians have the right skills.

    In order to formulate appropriate policies, Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria says that “understanding where people work, constraints to firm growth, and the skills needed is fundamental. The reports provide some detailed diagnostics which are critical inputs to developing education and jobs strategies for Nigeria.

    According to the reports, ‘two Nigerias’ seem to be emerging: one in which high and diversified growth provides more job and income opportunities, and one in which workers are trapped in traditional subsistence activities.

    Geographic divide also tends to affect the way in which the residents access jobs. The northern Nigeria, for example, has low levels of education access and high youth underemployment than the South. Although skills required in Nigeria remain mostly manual, the South is experiencing more demand for the cognitive skills required by the new knowledge economy, the reports argue.

    The studies reveal that although the majority of adult Nigerians are employed, they are locked into low-productivity and low-income work, with no job or income security. 

    Moreover, half of working Nigerians are in small-holder farming and another 30 percent working as self-employed in small or micro household enterprises in the non-agricultural sector. Their work, according to the studies, is not enough to escape poverty, or attain middle-class status for their households.

    To meet the needs of the country, the reports provide key areas: education, competitiveness, and jobs agenda that can be exploited as solutions.

    Improve skills levels

    Nigeria needs to improve its skills levels to support transition into more productive employment.

    Up to 30% of youth in Nigeria have not completed more than primary education. Without education and other employability skills, more and more youth remain unemployed.

    While better policies and programs would improve access and market relevance of technical vocational education and training, young people should embark on acquiring more skills beyond the basic skills.

    There is also a need to provide better job market information and facilitation. This would strengthen job accreditation, certification and expand opportunities for school-to-work transition. Informal short programs could help existing workers to upgrade skills and become more employable as well.

    Private Sector’s potential

    Although the reports note that the private sector generates employment, they also argue that firm growth is too small to absorb a large number of Nigerians.

    While the informal sector could generate jobs for the unemployed, the reports say that the formal sector appears to have an even greater potential to grow and generate employment but is limited by low productivity especially in northern Nigeria.

    What seems to be the biggest gains to productivity would be reducing crime, improving access to credit, reducing losses due to power outages, and increasing use of the Internet.

    Agriculture is the backbone of development

    Agriculture is critical, as it will remain the largest employer for the foreseeable future. But there is a disconnect. In 2012, agriculture contributed 22 percent to GDP but employed half of the working population.

    Some of the strategies to raising agricultural productivity include incorporating small farmers in value chains, increasing access to markets, inputs, and technology would both help raise income opportunities for smallholder farmers and simultaneously tap into the significant potential for domestic agriculture and agribusinesses in Nigeria.

    Introducing safety nets

    Last but not least, the reports advocate for programs that reduce income volatility over the short term. Safety nets are needed to prevent people from falling into poverty and to protect economic development over the longer term. A coherent framework and institutional set-up for social safety nets is needed.

    Even as the government and other stakeholders are being encouraged to identify appropriate employment policies, they (policies) must be based on reliable data and rigorous analysis. Insufficient and poor quality data is still a constraint in monitoring jobs in Africa’s most populous country, the reports say.

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