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How Nigeria, others can tackle employment crisis – ILO DG

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By Victor Ahiuma- Young

THE Director General, DG, of International Labour Organisation,    Guy Ryder , was in Nigeria for the Global Youth Employment Forum. During the visit, the DG had an interaction with a cross section of journalists on challenges of unemployment among others.

*From Left : NLC President , Ayuba Wabba, Director General, DG, International Labour Organization, ILO, Mr. Guy Ryder and National Chairman of All Progressive Congress, APC , and former President of NLC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, chatting during a welcome dinner for ILO DG in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

Excerpts:

Job creation

I have been very pleased with the relationship between Nigeria government and the ILO. Our cooperation has been good in the past and we have already completed two programmes of the ILO. We call them decent work country programmes.  The last one was completed last year .We have a joint agreement with our Nigeria partners that we must settle the negotiations of the third of the programme when a new Minister is designated so that we can have that programme get started.

  Nigeria’ story

The country with a very large and fast growing population as is the case of Nigeria clearly has the challenge to create enough jobs to absorb its ever expanding labour force. I think the challenge of employment stands right on top of the very thing that we must  do.

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But overall imperative, there are a couple of challenges that came out very clearly in our conversations with the employers community. Which is, there is a strong wish to improve the conditions of doing business in Nigeria. This is in relation to regulatory environment, infrastructure, basic issues of governance.

Basically this community is asking the ILO for its assistance in trying to establish the best possible climate for private sector enterprises which must all be the dynamic of employment creation.

On the workers side, there is strong insistence on the need to make a reality of tripartite cooperation. In the    interaction among government, trade unions and employers, there was a strong call for the reactivation of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) which I think in the estimation of both trade unions and employers, has not been active in recent years and that there would be benefits in reactivating it. Clearly, this is another issue that might be brought to the attention of the new Minister when she or he is designated.

The negotiation of the new minimum wage which has consumed a great deal of time and energy in Nigeria, in recent weeks and months, has reached a satisfactory and acceptable conclusion. Although, there are some consequential issues that need to be resolved before that is finally close.

Youth Employment Forum

The Global Youths Employment Forum has a remarkable gathering. We have in addition to a large number of Nigerian participants, a lot of youth representatives of employers organisations, representatives from workers, as well as from government backgrounds. There is representatives from over 60 countries in all the regions of the world and they are taking part in what I think is high quality and insightful discussion about what needs to be done to overcome the global crisis of youth unemployment.

We have a global crisis of youth’s unemployment. The fact of the matter is that youth unemployment tends to be double or three times the rate of over adult unemployment. Young people are the most badly affected by unemployment. The ratio in Nigeria is five to one ( 5:1) that is to say young people are five times more likely to be unemployed as other adults.

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Perhaps the most startling statistics of all is that the rate of needs of young people who are neither in training nor in employment, who are really marginalised in our society, that figure is in excess of 21% of young people both in Nigeria and in Africa. So, we are right to talk about this crisis of youth unemployment.

Around the world if you add up those numbers, there are 255 million young people who are neither in employment or training. When you go beyond that figure of unemployment we have to look at the terms upon which young people who are at work are included in labour market.    In Africa,    95% of young workers are in informal employment, they can’t find a place in the formal labour market. Although the informal market economy is a variant phenomena, but the fact is, this is unprotected work. It is    a vulnerable work, this is not a quality work, It falls below the ambitions of the ILO to include people in what we refer to as decent work.

Ending the crisis

In 2012 when the global financial crisis was raging, the ILO made a call for action for youth employment which basically has five components which we still think are relevant to the fight against global youth unemployment.

At this level we need micro    economy policies, the right type of taxation which are pro unemployment and this means that the fight against youth employment is not just a matter for labour ministries, it is not just a matter to youth and sports industries, it is also a matter for finance ministries, Industry ministries as well. It is a whole government approach which is required to be successful in addressing the crisis of youth unemployment.

The second dimension of our call to action concerns employability and this means endowing young people with the education and the skills that they need, that is required by the labour market. It is quite a paradox that even in the situation of very high unemployment and youth unemployment, employers continue to complain that they cannot find skilled people that they need to fill vacant spaces and this leads to the conclusion that there is a mismatch between the skills and capability of our educational systems and endowed young people with those required by the labour market. So, we need to close that gap between the supply and the demand skills.

This is easily stated but it is quite a difficult thing    to do and more and more as the world of work changes and new technologies comes in, we are aware that education is the life long process. So, we believe that we need to put emphasis on lifelong learning.

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The third element of our call for action in youth employment has to do with labour market policies. There are arguments in favour of wage subsidies, that supporting financially enterprises, employers will go in taking care of trading and employment opportunities to young people. We need to improve in this, making public employment services to direct young people to the right types of job. We believe that there is need to create new emphasis on transiting workers in enterprises from the informal to the formal sector.

The fourth element, this has been strongly emphasised that in Nigeria there is the need to create opportunities for the young people to start their own businesses and not wait to find a job. However to create their own jobs through entrepreneurship trainings, through startups, I know there are some important initiatives here in Nigeria to make this happen.

In all of this, finally, we need to be respectful of the rights of young people. We should not think that getting young people into work should be at the expense of their basic rights. Their work is like any other and the quality of job should not determine the kind of treatment of work and in no way, reduce the fact that they are young people.

The tripod

I have best, very satisfied with the frankness and directness of the interactions I had with the Government,  Trade unions and Employers organisations. I am aware of the important challenges that the country faces in labour issues, but I feel confident that there is energy and capacity to address those challenges. I am giving the assurances that the ILO through its office here in Abuja, through its regional Director, we will stand by our Nigerian friends to do everything we can in support of their issues.

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