Nigeria’s unemployment problem is showing no signs of slowing down

“We want jobs!”
“We want jobs!”
Image: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Nigeria’s struggle to create jobs is getting worse.

New data published by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) pegs the unemployment rate at 14.2% in the last quarter of 2016, up from 13.9% in the preceding quarter. It’s the ninth consecutive quarter that the unemployment rate in Nigeria has increased.

Employment has faltered as businesses struggle amid Nigeria’s first recession in two decades. Those companies dependent on foreign transactions are also suffering due to a critical shortage of dollars.

The aviation industry is particularly hard hit. In February, debt-ridden Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest airline, was taken over by government to save it from collapse. Arik Air accounts for 55% of Nigeria’s passenger traffic. In September 2016, Aero Contractors, Nigeria’s oldest working airline at the time, suspended operations citing grave economic challenges.

International airlines have also slashed operations. Last October, Emirates, one of the world’s richest airlines, reduced daily flights to Lagos and Abuja and earlier, in May 2016, United Airlines shut down its Nigeria operations.

The government has tried to boost employment, mainly by threatening businesses that cut jobs as well as trying to find work for those who are laid off. Local banks were threatened with a possible withdrawal of their licenses for sacking workers. Meanwhile, the government has sought to employ as many as possible through large-scale recruitment exercises.

The latter effort hasn’t made much of dent as demand for jobs far outstrips supply. Last November, the federal tax agency received 700,000 applications for 500 advertised positions. In May 2016,  nearly a million people applied for 10,000 listed positions in the Nigerian Police Force.

Nigeria’s youth—a majority in the country where the median age is 21—are the most affected. Fraudulent ponzi schemes have thrived with millions looking to make a quick buck in the absence of gainful employment.