Stakeholders in the Nigerian employment sector has called on the government to provide a comprehensive youth empowerment programme as the crisis of unemployment deepens.

Speaking during the National conference on employment promotion, organised by the Ministry of Labour in collaboration with Employment German Corporation, GIZ and the International Labour Organisation, the National President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, noted that the Covid-19 pandemic exposed Nigeria’s poor economic model, as many Nigerians were thrown into poverty.

According to him, dealing with the crisis of unemployment in Nigeria requires the commitment of stakeholders to finding practical solutions to deliver value to workers.

He said, “Our unemployed youths have become veritable tools for promoting unrest across the country, and this must be addressed urgently.

“Our National employment policy plan must reflect the realities on the ground, there are very few job opportunities available in the formal sector today, hence we must promote vocational training in our policy.

“This training will arm the youths with the necessary skills needed to help them thrive in a competitive global space,” he said.

Speaking further, Wabba noted that dealing with the crisis of unemployment in Nigeria will require deliberate effort especially through employment promotion policies, improvement of labour market information through research and credible data generation.

In his remark, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige noted that the government is currently working to fine-tune the special investment programs targeted at the youths.

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Representing the Minister, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Peter Yerima Tarfa said that part of the intervention programmes to reduce the impact of the pandemic on Nigerians was the Special Public Works Program designed to create 774,000 jobs at a pay of N20,000.

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He explained that in spite of the various laudable interventions by the present administration to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on the populace and the economy, the current key indicators of the labour market as published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) remain unimpressive and worrisome as unemployment and underemployment rates as at last quarter of 2020 stood at 33.3% and 22.8% respectively with a youth unemployment rate at 42%.

“The Ministry of Labour and Employment note with utmost concern the pathetic picture at the Nigerian economy and especially the labour market as painted in the current employment data.

“The federal government through its parastatals, the National Directorate of employment, produced the special public work program to cushion the effect if COVID-19 on rural unskilled population. The program successful e gauged 774,000 Youths between the ages of 18 and 35 years.

“The present administration has developed strategies to minimise the Impact of pandemic and enable enterprises to retain their staff,” he said.

The President, Trade Union Congress, Quadri Olaleye in his presentation described the N20,000 wage pegged for the SPW programme as ‘indecent.’

Olaleye said, “The Federal government has implemented her Special Public Works (SPW) programme meant to create 774,000 jobs for unemployed youths.

“While this might seem laudable, we need to pay attention to the quality of those jobs and how they contribute to our national development.

“Are the jobs such that would be regarded as decent and sustainable? These are questions that need to be asked. The fact that we have graduates of tertiary institutions earning N20,000 monthly is a problem in itself that must be addressed immediately.”

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For the International Labour Organisation, the Nigerian government needs to create decent jobs to overcome some of its economic challenges.

The ILO Country Office Director Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Liaison for ECOWAS, Ms Vanessa Lerato Phala, said the government has stepped up effort to create employment, but advocated for more decent job creation.

Phala said, “How do we begin to talk about decent work? And for us at the ILO, the issues about decent employment is very important, we are not talking about any jobs, we are talking about jobs that are decent and I think for us the articulation of that decent work agenda and the core of it is the fundamental principles… is social dialogue, is social protection, is employment mediation and tactic employment creation for that matter is very important.

She also spoke on the need to assist the informal sector to reduce the neglect faced by the sector she described as critical.

The Country Director, GIZ, Ina Hommers said that the conference aims to create a platform to take stock of the labour market situation in Nigeria, taking into consideration the socio-economic impact t of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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