In the 70s, 80s and early 90s, it was easier to achieve success from fat salaries and bonuses through paid employment than starting a business. Back then, most graduates had assurances of great career prospects and had only one thought in mind when they graduated, that was to get a Job.
Getting a job back then came with benefits such as a house and car with real growth prospects. Every parent strived to ensure their children graduated with at least an SSCE degree. The percentage of young entrepreneurs was low as few young Nigerians were prepared to go through the uncertainties of entrepreneurship to achieve success. Under the circumstances at that time, it was probably the right decision. Society respected the white collar job holders.
Coming to the new 2000s millennium, Nigeria has literally made a u-turn. The unemployment rate according to NBS for the 4th Quarter 2015 figures stands at 10.4% and increasing. SMEs and startups seem to be in the driver’s seat of the economy. With falling crude prices and below average foreign exchange rates, most companies seem to be in trouble. Worker’s salaries are delayed with some being owed as much as 8months pay. Mass staff layoffs has grown into a daily occurrence in the banking and manufacturing sectors of the economy. For the youth, working for salaries now seems to be a last resort. Employers asking for unrealistic years of experience and a mostly underpaid workforce isn't helping.
The education sector is on the decline. Nigeria last had a winner in the top 3 category of the 2012 WAEC international awards. First degree certificates seem not to mean much to employers. Most are concerned with working experience having a “what you can do” rather than “certificates you have” mind state. Youths are also changing their ideas on how to achieve success from looking for paid employment to creating their own jobs.
The idea of spending millions of naira and years to get a good education just to end up shuffling from interview to interview and office to office for an underpaid job is one that no longer appeals to the Nigerian youth. The number of entrepreneurs who found their “calling” during school is on the rise as is the number of shops and small office spaces. Virtual offices are springing up almost every day. Entrepreneurial empowerment initiatives like the Young Business Leaders of Nigeria continues to see an increase in entrepreneurs partaking in its programs and initiatives. Even the government through platforms such as Bank of Industry and other Agricultural initiatives have also picked up on this shift in youth orientation.
The I.T and creative industries get the most of this shift with many musical and creative artistes, fashion designers and digital marketing consultants springing up each day; despite the under performing economy and discouraging business environment and conditions.
What should the government focus on to revive the economy and empower the many jobless youths? Should they focus more on Job creation or support small businesses and startups more?
We would love to hear your thoughts.