Productive employment and decent work for all is achievable

Coming out of the university, some of us look forward to that day that we would start working and contributing our own quota to the development of our dear country. Some of us even further our studies to the Masters and Ph.D. level and even take professional courses. Sadly, despite these degrees, most people cannot boast of a decent job or good working environment. So we ask ourselves, what exactly is wrong? Don’t we have what it takes to get a decent job or are there no jobs? The criticality of this situation perhaps propelled the 193 member States of the United Nations to include in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the need to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” as the eighth goal of the SDGs.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the number of unemployed persons globally in 2017 is forecast to stand at just over 201 million – with an additional rise of 2.7 million expected in 2018 – as the pace of labour force growth outstrips job creation. Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) states that unemployment stood at 6.4% for the final quarter of 2014 in Nigeria, increased to 7.5% for the first three months of 2015 and had further risen from 13.3 per cent in the 2nd quarter to 13.9 per cent in the 3rd quarter of 2016. In the report, NBS notes the number of people that were unemployed or underemployed increased from 24.4 million as at the end of the first quarter of 2016 to 26.06 million persons. The report reads in part, “The number of underemployed in the labour force (those working but doing menial jobs not commensurate with their qualifications or those not engaged in fulltime work and merely working for few hours) increased by 392,390 or 2.61 per cent resulting in an increase in the underemployment rate to 19.3 per cent in Q2 2016 from 19.1 per cent in Q1 2016.”

The above statistics show that Nigeria is not insulated against the global trend of rising unemployment. The deduction from this is that the rate at which the labour force is growing is faster than the rate of job creation. This also means that the few jobs that are available are not enough for the unemployed. Hence, the labour market is becoming more fierce and more competitive and most people just settle for any job even though it is not decent enough. So the saying “half a loaf is better than none” then makes most unemployed persons take any job offered to them no matter how degrading the job might seem.

The lack of decent jobs is causing issues such as social unrest, suicide, terrorism and migration in many parts of the world. The GDP of countries with less job creation has reduced and this has affected the economic growth of these countries. This is because the economic growth of a country is mostly determined by the GDP of such country. ILO explains, “Labour productivity (measured by GDP per worker) spurs economic growth. Growth in labour productivity in developing regions far outpaced that of developed regions, especially in Asia. Despite rapid growth in some developing regions, labour productivity remains far higher in the developed regions. In 2015, the average worker in developed regions produced 23 times the annual output of an average worker in sub-Saharan Africa (which has the lowest labour productivity in developing regions), and 2.5 times that of an average worker in Western Asia (which has the highest labour productivity in developing regions).”

SDG 8 aims at fostering “sustained economic growth, higher levels of productivity and technological innovation,” and among its targets is the imperative of achieving full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.

Efforts need to be channeled towards aggressive job creation, international cooperation, entrepreneurship and skills training of citizens, creating a better working condition for the employed, while promoting decent employment. It is achievable. Full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030, that is.

Written by Ms Olaide Olumide (An intern)