“When all the talent in society is not fully developed, it is not the individuals that are adversely affected alone who suffer; the society as a whole suffers as well. Now, granting that everyone is given an opportunity to develop his talent, it is imperative that he should also be given an opportunity to employ that developed talent. Full development of man and his full employment are not only social imperatives, but also inseparably inter-connected and complementary.” — Chief Obafemi Awolowo, former Western Nigeria Premier. This quote is very instructive here, in line with the issue we are about to discuss.
In the past we have written and many people have spoken extensively about issues of unemployment in the country; the causes and expected solutions. What can be done to bring an end or a reduction to the crisis that has taken a dangerous and alarming proportion in the country, considering the number of people that are unemployed, particularly among the youth of this country?
Unemployment is not what we want to discuss here as a subject. If you want to read more about that, you can visit our website and get understanding of how we think the problem can be resolved.
What we are going to focus on is more of the attitude or inaction of the unemployed people themselves, and how that is affecting resolutions of a problem which is becoming an endemic situation on our hands. We also want to look at various measures that can be taken by government and other stakeholders to help the embittered and disillusioned unemployed youth.
Apathy, indifference, lethargy or dispiritedness can simply be used to describe the state of our youths’ lack of desire to get out of the unemployment bracket.
It has gotten to a point that when these unemployed people are invited for interviews or job-chats, they either fail to show up or when they manage to come around the urge to follow through the job selection process is totally not there or visible in them. This is what we mean by apathy.
The reason for this lethargy among unemployed youth is quite challenging to figure out. Personally, I think successive governments did not help matters in the country. They have created a broadly-held view among the unemployed people that government in the country is the employer of last resort. This mindset is deeply seated with many of the youth in the country, making it difficult for them to gear-up enthusiastically and pragmatically in search of jobs.
We practice a system of government that gives our people — the youth included — a sense of dependency on the state. Government should as a matter of necessity provide a job for graduates is a notion that is commonly held among many youth in the country. This is one factor that breeds apathy and lethargy in our unemployed youth.
Over-reliance on government to provide for everyone is like expecting another era of fresh manna to fall from heaven in this present age. We know this is an impossible and unrealistic expectation at this time, with government expenditure widely overstretched and at the same time growing astronomically faster than the income sources — coupled with an increasing quantum of needs to be met in the area of social amenities.
The age-long view that government is a ‘Jehovah Jireh’ in meeting people’s needs has helped in no small measure to make our youth develop a dependency mentality. This has brought about unsavoury apathy among unemployed youth in the country, keeping them from generating the inner motivation and self-drive needed to get out of their rut.
Parental Influence is also not helping matters. Over-pampering and too much indulgence of children, even after completing school, is another major cause of the unpleasant apathy among the youth.
We spoon-feed them through their schooldays, and after they graduate we still enjoy the appellation of ‘my nice parent’ still giving me pocket money. This we do to the detriment of their career development and future usefulness to themselves and the nation at large, with excuse that there is no job anywhere.
There is an adage that says “when a rabbit grow old it sucks her children’s breast”. We should learn something from the rabbit. We cannot continue to give ‘home- sitting’ stipends because jobs are not forthcoming. In a situation where the monthly stipend received from the parent is almost — if not more than — what the employer is going to give as starting salary, where is the motivation to look for job. When such unemployed but over-pampered youth are invited for an interview, the first thing they want to know is: what is the starting salary for the job, the nature of the job, and where the job is located? These days, these ‘beggars’ have choices.
When the majority of our youth get so dispirited — to the extent that when they are invited for a job interview and they think it is not worth going — then the country’s future both economically and politically is hanging in a precarious position. The economic implications are unquantifiable. The growth and development projections cannot be achieved. The GDP is going to be affected negatively.
Apathy among the unemployed youth leads to productivity loss — both to the nation and to the concerned youth and their families that spent a fortune to educate them.
Unemployment affects earning powers of people. The longer a person waits for a paying job the more traumatic it gets to obtain money in the pockets. Another implication of this is that an unemployed person cannot build up skills or experience during his/her years of joblessness, making the situation much more precarious for him/her because the waiting game can be prolonged for unreasonable lengths of time. As a result, this may result in a huge economic gap between the unemployed youth who choose to be apathetic and his contemporary who picks a job early enough no matter how little the monthly income might be from his wise economic decision.
In addition to the reasons above, there is likelihood of a decrease in lifetime earnings of dispirited youth or those who were unemployed as an adult when compared to those who had steady work.
Another factor is the risk of loss of talent and skills since a great amount of school leavers are unable to find a job and put their knowledge and capabilities into producing innovation and contributing to economic growth. Youth apathy to employment poses the danger of excluding young and vibrant people from the labour market, denying the economy divergent thinking, creativity and innovation that they naturally should offer to their employers.
In the first place, delay in getting jobs affects so many social aspects of young people. This has the effect of making their happiness and confidence level fall down considerably. The unemployed persons certainly may be unable to cope with their day-to-day life, considering the economy’s present state. Widespread youth unemployment also leads to a socially excluded generation, at great risk from poverty and crime-related vices.
Youth apathy breeds social inequality along gender lines, the effects of which are already becoming obvious among male and female counterparts. The average marriage age for single ladies in our country has now gone up to between 27 and 32 years, while for men is getting to between 35 and 40 years. The youth of today is losing an average 10 to 15 years of their productive and marital life, still perching and waiting for things to get better before thinking of making a decision to marry. This generally creates another generation gap, or demographic challenges for planners.
Alongside the shift in youth living situations, the impact of returning after graduating from school to live with parents and difficulty in finding a fulfilling job leads to mental health risks. Being unemployed for a long period of time in youth has been correlated to decreased happiness, job satisfaction and other mental health issues.
The number of people that fall into this category of lethargic unemployed youth is significant, and their number can easily affect the political fortune of any of the leading political parties in the general election if we don’t find a way to prop these people up to be part of the political decision-making process.
Assuming we have about 100,000 to 200,000 unemployed youth that are apathetic and disillusioned about the entire process and their state of unemployment, and in the same vein carry this disillusionment to the point of not exercising their political rights by sitting on the fence during election — this is a massive number that can swing election results to either side of the political divide. In actuality the number may be far higher than the figures projected here, considering we have a population of about one million people in the country not in employment.
The scriptures say “The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair” Proverbs 20:29. In this current situation, the glory of these unemployed youth is being wasted in idleness and joblessness.
We must help them find their rhythm. They seem to be lacking the needed cutting-edge to get their lives running.
What can we do to assist? The solution should be tackled from four different angles. The unemployed youth themselves should be willing to come out of it; their family members should challenge them; religious organisations should use their platforms to inspire them to rise up and take their destiny in their own hands; while the state should use whatever measures are available to the state to create the enabling environment for business to thrive and employ more of our unemployed youth in a gainful manner.
The economic challenges in our environment have made it imperative for unemployed youth to start thinking strategically and out of the box. No stereotyped person can survive today’s economic situation without engaging his/her mind productively. By this, I mean, looking at what can work and make it to work. The era of waiting on government is past and gone.
Government itself is looking for the ‘helper of destiny’, the IMF, to help it come out its own log-jam. When fire catches us and our son, we must first put out the one on our body before we remember that of the son. That is the situation now between the government and its citizens. Unemployed youth must come to terms with themselves and the state of the economy, and do what is called in economics a backward integration exercise; and look inward by asking “what can I do on my own to become gainfully employed?”
They can do themselves a lot of good by sitting down to put a brilliant business plan or proposal together that is marketable and fundable on a small-scale, with high potential of growth. With this well-prepared document, he can go out and look for financiers and funding partners among his/her friends, family; and venture capital people can help. It takes just a little three to five years before you become a national hero in that field, and a great entrepreneur.
Parents and guardians
There are two things I expect parents to do as a way of support, knowing full well that white-collar jobs or employment is drying-up with an increasing number of fresh graduates coming into the labour markets every six months. As part of our family financial planning, we should include a start-up capital in our projections for our children. By the time the child graduates from school we should have prepares some reasonable amount for him as seed-capital to start his/her business life, instead of spending so much money on funerals and other social events.
The second aspect is about age falsification at the point of employment by senior employees in various government institutions. Many people in government establishments are denying their offspring an opportunity to get a job because they are not leaving the stage when they should. They are still occupying the job by using their ‘working age’ instead of their real age. This irresponsible and ‘wicked’ act is deliberately keeping youth that should have taken over from them perpetually unemployed. This is eating the destiny of our children with our own. It is criminal and an act of wickedness.
As a matter of policy, government should embark on an age-screening exercise by asking people to nominate five or more people of their age-group, people they attended primary or secondary school with so that government can do what I want to call a peer-review audit. Any wide ‘unacceptable’ differences in age should earn the person an automatic dismissal. We can first give them the option to resign voluntarily before the exercise begins. This will create massive openings in public service and employment opportunities for the unemployed youth.
The religious organisations like churches, mosques and other places of prayer have major roles to play in inspiring our youth to be more focused and take the current challenges in their stride. Apart from their motivational roles and inspiration talks to prop-up the discouraged youth in their various churches and mosques, we need role-models and mentors within the religious community to stand with our leaders of tomorrow and play Godfather roles in their lives by giving them hope and a future.
Our churches and mosques should also start empowerment programmes within their organisations to help unemployed people find means of livelihood. Credit unions in the church or mosque should not strictly be for adult members who are contributors. Another way to carry our evangelism and soul-winning messages across is to be a blessing to dedicated members who are in need, by advancing these members some capital to start their life since they are well-known in the organisation as dedicated members.
Our churches and mosques should rethink their large auditorium constructions and ‘commercially’ intended projects that are not directly beneficial to their congregations, particularly the unemployed youth among their membership. Such investment can be channeled to help their loyal but disadvantaged members start small businesses of their own, instead of roaming the street with no hope of getting anything doing at the end of the day.
Various government initiatives to reduce unemployment must be reviewed and aligned to current challenges and ensure they deliver and benefit their intended beneficiaries.
Beyond that, there is a need for government to help industry grow in a depressed economy. The approach to that is simple. What we have to do is to revitalise all our ailing businesses, both private and public owned, by ejecting fresh capital and ideas into them — through the instrumentality of the state acting as the ‘official guarantor’ for the facility to be granted by the banks, which must be secured by the value of their mortgage/factory properties and equipment being pledged to the provider of a revival-project loan to the company.
The ‘born-again’ company comes back into full operation with new management that can be partially controlled by the bank or financier, up to a time when the business has fully paid the loan facility and offset all indebtedness.
The implementation should be decentralised along a regional government basis for effectiveness, proper monitoring and control. They are not going to be state-owned enterprises but a bail-out arrangement backed by state power to reassure the banks.
This will open up the economy immediately, create job opportunities, production capacity and re-invigorate the economy while improve living standards of the people.
It has emerged that although many of our youth have a good education, themajority are apathetic. Many do not know what to do. Others have ambitions but don’t know where to start. Others couldn’t care less. Our youth are, for all intents and purposes, lost souls in need of being saved from themselves and the overwhelming nature of post-modern life.
This is the way to go in finding lasting solutions if we want to save the future of our country, since these unemployed youth are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow.