The recent report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to the effect that more than 3.67 million Nigerians lost their jobs in the course of 2016 should be of major concern to the government and all Nigerians. This is because this figure, rather than portraying an economy that is showing positive signs, is evident of a rapidly declining one in spite of the shine some people and government want to put on the Nigerian economy under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Job losses are a sign of economic hemorrhaging, especially when the rate is on the increase. This is visible in the position of the NBS that the unemployment rate has been on the increase in the country in the past few years, reaching 13.9 per cent for 2016. The rising job loss and unemployment rate in Nigeria must have also been the point of reference for the World Bank when it stated that there had been more job losses than job gains as the country grappled with a declining economy. The real point here is that growing job losses point to continuing problems in the economy especially as there cannot be improvement in the productive capacity of the economy where people are losing their jobs.
In particular, it must be stated that the goal of the government given the continuing increase in the unemployment rate would be to improve the real and productive sectors of the economy which are the engines that could provide engagement and employment for the teeming population of Nigerians out of productive engagement. The goal of the government should not just be about offering paltry employment opportunities to about 200, 000 Nigerians through its engagement programme as this number pales into insignificance in the face of the total number of Nigerians that are out of work. Productivity should be about improving the economic conditions that would make it possible for Nigerians to establish businesses and for the country to attract foreign investors who would also set up enterprises that would offer massive employment. It is only by getting the productive economy to function maximally with establishments springing up to employ suitable Nigerians that the country could stem the current trend of job losses.
Unfortunately, the country is currently not moving in that direction. We still have fundamental shortages in infrastructure within the economy with the problem of power supply being the key one there. Associated with this is the fact that the environment of doing business in Nigeria continues to be tedious and very discouraging in spite of promises by the government to drastically improve the environment of doing business. It is therefore not surprising that experts on the economy are speaking of continuing contraction in the Nigerian economy as the economy necessarily needs a higher level of production in order to turn the tide on its decline.
What the report on increasing job losses indicates therefore is that the current efforts of the government are not enough to stem the decline. The government would have to do more and initiate concrete new policies that would seek to stimulate the economy into growth through increased production. There is a direct link between production and employment, such that increasing job losses would point at a lack of production and stimulation of production would necessarily bring back employment opportunities for Nigerians. The government therefore has to double its efforts at stimulating the real sectors of the economy in order to get it back into production mode, which would ensure that Nigerians become productively engaged to the continuing benefit of the economy. The consequences of the current trend of increasing job losses are too grim to be countenanced.
The government should see the current situation as an emergency given that what is important for the health of the society is to get Nigerians productively engaged. We therefore see the new report from the NBS on continuing job losses as more of a clarion call on the government to review its current strategies which would seem not to be working. It should change gear and intensify efforts to arrest the decline in the economy in order to usher in positive growth and production. Nigerians direly need and require an economy that would provide employment and productive engagements for them and this is what the government should make its urgent concern right now.