Tackling Nigeria’s unemployment from competent data

While I observed a leadership tussle within an organization deteriorate some nine years ago from an harmonious union to multiple court cases, by analysis I proposed that “the existence of a problem is not really the challenge, not finding the solution to the problem might not be either, but refusing to acknowledge the problem and trying to solve it is the real concern.” Analyzing this situation vis-à-vis other problems of different classes, I came up with this theory that: “a problem is half solved if the problem is known and its presence is acknowledged”. After identifying the problem and owning up to its existence, a substantial understanding of the problem must be gained before probable solutions can be suggested. This analogy simply describes the problem solving process; anything short of this amount only to ‘guts feeling problem solving’.
 
Having laid this important foundation, I would like to bring the unemployment challenge in Nigeria into focus. That the problem exists is not in doubt but there seem to be an obvious denial of the extent of the problem. More militating to the possibility of finding effective solutions, is the paltry understanding of the problem by those who are supposed to provide solutions to it. Without equivocation, this lack of understanding stems out of the dearth of reliable and relevant data on the true state of unemployment in Nigeria.
 
Though there are some data available, the reliability of Nigeria’s unemployment data is in serious doubt. The principal reason why these data should be in doubt is because of the mode of collecting the data.  In Nigeria, the four major ways unemployment data is collected are; Population Census, Household-Based surveys, establishment censuses & surveys and Administrative Sources. None of these sources can prove to be prompt and current as is required for a national planning tool the magnitude of unemployment figures. The most reliable of these collection methods which is the Labor Force Survey is supposed to be conducted quarterly by the National Bureau of Statistics yet the most current data on unemployment in Nigeria is set at March 2009.
 
Before real attempts can be moved towards addressing our unemployment crisis, enormously quality and near accurate data sets providing details such as; age group distribution, qualifications, skill sets, rural urban distribution, location and employability must be readily available to help decision and policy makers take appropriate steps at curbing this raging crisis. Until the reliability of available data and statistics become as obvious as the menacing presence of the problem, present solutions and future proffers will remain just a grope. 
 
The process of collecting employment data therefore, needs to be reviewed critically before the data can be considered usable or relied upon. In a highly informal and rural society like ours, the cost of collecting reliably accurate unemployment data may be on the high side, noting that there is currently no organized structure for self reporting and status filing, but appropriate solutions cannot be proffered talk less implemented to reduce the rate of unproductive human resource that do not just intersperse our society but are the very make up of many communities in Nigeria.
 
Aside the availability of data which is of critical essence, access to information is as important as the existence of the information and the information itself. Multiple information sources should be created to distribute relevant data in order to be assured of data penetration and consequently the scope of its influence.
 
In concluding, the dissenting figures and opinions on Nigeria’s unemployment figures will persist even while they are largely undependable and inadmissible in economic planning. We need detailed and accurate data to reliably know what types of jobs to create, for whom to create them and how many of them to create. Then the private sector can be engaged and encouraged to intervene.

Sanyaolu Kehinde & Taiwo
Chief Research Analyst
Stakes Capital Ltd
Lagos

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