Realities Of Labour Market



By Isaac Asabor 

There is no denying the fact that the hopeless realities that characterise today’s labour market were never imagined in the past by any of those that witnessed the boom period of the Nigerian labour market when undergraduates were fortunate enough to secure mouth-watering jobs even before graduation while some less fortunate ones secured well-paying jobs few months after graduation.

Then, the labour market was seemingly in a perfect state that any experienced graduate was literarily sought after like a chaste bride by the recruitment teams of various multinational companies. It was said that some companies went as far as establishing their presence in some of the few universities that existed then apparently to catch young and brilliant students before they graduated. Though the foregoing may sound like a fairy tale to the youths of today, that was how favourable the labour market was.

Young school certificate holders were also not denied the opportunities that existed then in the labour market as some of them secured jobs in both public and private organisations. Some of the lucky ones among them rose through the ranks by attending short courses. Some of them that secured admissions to study in either local or foreign universities were granted study leave. With this, many ambitious youths were able to re-join the company that granted him or her study leave.

But alas, the realities of today’s labour market glaringly reveal that the mechanism of supply is far greater than that of  demand. Succinctly put, the labour market is saturated. Even those that are gainfully employed are literarily hanging on the precipice of uncertainties as they could be thrown into the saturated labour market at any time for no good reason.

Today, a vacancy advertisement in a newspaper for an existing position, say an “Administrative Assistant” may elicit  thousands of responses from unemployed youths that are mostly graduates. The realities in the labour market today are so bad that even greedy expatriates of Asian stock now treat their Nigerian employees in a way that is reminiscent of the days of slavery.

Due to the saturation of the labour market, most graduate applicants now apply  for lower jobs, yet most of them are rebuffed by some employers, particularly expatriates of Asian origin who now seem to be making mockery of the situation. There are cases where young graduate applicants were contemptuously invited to participate in various recruitment exercise only to be collectively treated like the rag tag and bobtail.

On the contrary, this writer witnessed the period when secondary school students that were seemingly tired of continuing their education dropped out from class 4 in the secondary school, applied for what was then known as G4 certificate, while those who did not pass their school certificate examinations were rated as S.75 holders. Despite the collective low value of the foregoing certificates then, their holders were able to secure jobs as clerical assistants in some good organisations. Today, most of them are managers in various sectors of the economy.

The essence of the foregoing analysis is to let some readers understand why the present PDP government of President Goodluck Jonathan needs to treat the issue of unemployment as a matter of priority. The reason for this cannot be farfetched as it is very obvious that unemployment has remained one of the major factors causing insecurity in the country.

The question now is, “What happened along the line that  the labour market has become ignominiously saturated that expatriates from less endowed countries are now beginning to see our graduates as hewers of wood and drawers of water?

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First and foremost, vacancies that exist in government ministries, departments and agencies are no longer advertised for the benefits of all Nigerians through the media or through official gazettes. Information on vacancies existing in government establishments are somewhat shrouded in secrecy by top civil servants, which are later made known to politicians. It appears they have decided to make it secret only to be revealed to their close relations and political associates. The foregoing sums up one of the negative Nigerian factors called “man-know-man” syndrome. It is not an exaggeration to say that for any unemployed youth to secure job in any government institution these days he must be literarily connected to any of the members of the ruling party; either at the local, state or federal level.

Secondly, it seems government at all levels have shirked their responsibilities of creating jobs for the teeming youth population. It is very unfortunate that the critical issue of employment has now been politicised to the detriment of millions of Nigerians.

In 1983 this writer registered with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity as a job seeker. As expected then, he was assisted in securing an interview with a manufacturing company at Ilupeju, Lagos, though he was not employed. But it was a step in the right direction. Today, many vulnerable job seekers are left in the hands of dubious recruitment agencies that are at the moment mushrooming in all the cities and on the websites.

Most of these self-acclaimed recruitment agencies are wont to drop names of reputable organisations in order to hoodwink unsuspecting and desperate job seekers who are often fleeced through different guises. It could be through payment for form, processing fee, CV design fee and various spurious names invented to rip off job seekers.

The labour market is in this crisis due to the abysmal negligence and levity being exhibited by the government at all levels. In other climes, the issue of spurious employment agencies ripping off vulnerable youths would never come to play as there would have been statutory measures to nip it in the bud.

Moreso, it appears governments have literarily conspired not to create jobs for the unemployed. Or how else can one explain the prevailing state of laxity from government quarters, so to say? Today, most businessmen are frustrated from businesses as a result of epileptic power supply, unjustified and multiple tax payments to virtually all levels of government and prevailing high interest rates charged on money borrowed from banks. Given these militating factors, how would it be possible for the private sector to create jobs for the unemployed and an in turn keep themselves and their family members away from the biting effects of the harsh economy?

Also, the insincerity being exhibited by most of our leaders is palpable. For instance, most ministers at every given forum are wont to rhetorically boast that if any particular project within the purview of their respective ministries was executed, it would create millions of jobs for the youths. This rhetoric of job creation, in my view, has been overflogged by our political leaders. To me, they only use this rhetoric to achieve cheap political gains. For the umpteenth time, Nigerians have been told that millions of jobs would be created in the oil and gas sector. But alas! as at the time of writing this piece, job opportunities in the oil and gas sector has remained an illusion to many job seekers. Nigerians have equally been told the same story by political office holders in the agricultural sector. Surprisingly, the only opportunity that is available in the agricultural sector today is that of a  traditional peasant farmer.

In my view, government at all levels should begin to see the creation of jobs for unemployed Nigerians as topmost priority. They should stop politicising it. Many Nigerians want the boom era of the labour market to begin to manifest in this 21st century. It is possible if our political leaders are sincere.

•Asabor wrote in from Lagos. Email: [email protected]

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