COVID-19: How to re­cover lost jobs

Weekly Trust - - Analysis | Business - By Fran­cis Arinze Iloani

One of the ma­jor neg­a­tive im­pacts of COVID-19 on the Nige­rian econ­omy was huge job cuts by em­ploy­ers to sur­vive the eco­nomic down­turn.

The Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (NBS) re­ported over the week­end that 42 per cent of Nige­rian work­ers lost their jobs as a re­sult of the im­pact of COVID19, di­min­ish­ing in­comes of 79 per cent of house­holds in the coun­try.

“The im­pact on em­ploy­ment and in­come has also been wide­spread. The im­pact of COVID-19 has been most strongly felt in the com­merce, ser­vice and agri­cul­ture sec­tors,” NBS ex­plained.

The coun­try’s apex sta­tis­ti­cal Bureau re­vealed that “ex­pe­ri­ence of eco­nomic shocks in the few months af­ter the out­break of coro­n­avirus far ex­ceeds shocks ex­pe­ri­enced between 2017 and 2019.”

The chal­lenge be­fore the coun­try at the mo­ment is how to re­place those lost jobs, even as un­fold­ing events sug­gest that novel skills will be needed for fu­ture jobs.

It is a stan­dard cor­po­rate prac­tice for or­gan­i­sa­tions across the globe to reg­u­larly em­bark on or­gan­i­sa­tional re­ju­ve­na­tion and re-strate­gis­ing to re-en­er­gise their ac­tiv­i­ties for op­ti­mal cor­po­rate per­for­mances.

This is un­doubt­edly the op­tion be­fore many em­ploy­ers as postCOVID-19 labour needs may not con­form to the pre-coro­n­avirus lock­down era.

Going by NBS’ data, about 20.9 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans are with­out jobs as at the third quar­ter of 2018. Apart from this fig­ure, about four mil­lion men and women en­ter the work­force, with only a small frac­tion of them be­ing able to find for­mal and gain­ful em­ploy­ment. This, ac­cord­ing to find­ings, makes the prob­lem of youth un­em­ploy­ment a phe­nom­e­nal is­sue, cul­mi­nat­ing into wide­spread poverty and hard­ship among the youth.

The re­sul­tant ef­fect is increased so­cial in­sta­bil­ity, youth restive­ness and wors­en­ing in­se­cu­rity. Experts are of the view that the grow­ing un­em­ploy­ment fig­ure is a con­fir­ma­tion that growth in the econ­omy is still weak and not in­clu­sive.

They ar­gued that the chief driver of the econ­omy, which is the oil sec­tor, is not em­ploy­ment elas­tic, adding that there is the need to stim­u­late growth in sec­tors that have strong link­ages to job cre­ation, such as man­u­fac­tur­ing, con­struc­tion, in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy and agri­cul­ture.

This, ac­cord­ing to them, would en­tail mas­sive in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture and putting in place mea­sures to en­sure that these sec­tors are able to ac­cess cred­its at sin­gle digit in­ter­est rate.

In view of the huge num­ber of youths that en­ter into the labour mar­ket each year, an­a­lysts are of the view that the gov­ern­ment should fo­cus on cre­at­ing the right en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing in­vest­ing in en­tre­pre­neur­ial ed­u­ca­tion and skills ac­qui­si­tion in or­der to re­duce the cur­rent high un­em­ploy­ment rate of about 23 per cent.

The In­dus­trial Train­ing Fund (ITF) seems to have re­alised this new chal­lenge and has ini­ti­ated home­grown plans to help job seek­ers and labour seek­ers get what they de­sire, de­spite the dis­rup­tions of COVID-19.

To ap­pre­ci­ate the chal­lenge the more, the na­tional vice pres­i­dent, North Cen­tral of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Small and Medium En­ter­prises (NASME), Auwal Bu­nunu Ibrahim, an en­gi­neer, pro­jected that about 50,000 work­ers had been dis­en­gaged in the Mi­cro, Small and Medium En­ter­prises (MSMEs) sub-sec­tor of the econ­omy.

Ibrahim said over 10,000 MSMEs busi­nesses had col­lapsed across the coun­try.

“I know that over 10,000 mi­cro en­ter­prises who are em­ploy­ing three to five peo­ple have col­lapsed across the coun­try, mainly in the North. So, if you mul­ti­ply three to five by 10,000, you can see how many jobs have been lost. The 10,000 I am talk­ing about is based on our own eval­u­a­tion as an as­so­ci­a­tion. There are more who have lost their jobs,” Ibrahim said.

De­spite the ITF’s many achieve­ments due to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of skilling plans, on the as­sump­tion of the in­cum­bent man­age­ment of the Fund, there was the ur­gent need to re­po­si­tion the agency to ad­dress the pol­icy goals of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment in terms of cre­at­ing the nec­es­sary skills for em­ploy­ment among the youth.

Against this re­al­i­sa­tion, the man­age­ment of the Fund, un­der the lead­er­ship of Joseph Ari, un­veiled the ITF Re­viewed Vi­sion: Strate­gies for Man­date Ac­tu­al­i­sa­tion, which was con­sid­ered by many as its most am­bi­tious plan since its es­tab­lish­ment.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan led to the train­ing of over 500,000 Nige­ri­ans, ex­pan­sion of in­fra­struc­ture and au­to­ma­tion of busi­ness pro­cesses, among other nu­mer­ous achieve­ments.

As a mark of re­spon­sive­ness and com­mit­ment to con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment, the ITF, last week un­veiled the sec­ond phase of its re­viewed vi­sion.

In the light of the COVID19 pan­demic and the chal­lenges it posed to coun­tries and or­ga­ni­za­tions, cou­pled with the dire un­em­ploy­ment pro­jec­tions that the num­ber of un­em­ployed Nige­ri­ans may rise by the end of 2020, the plan ex­pect­edly con­tained prac­ti­cal solutions that will re-en­er­gise its stake­hold­ers as they grap­ple with the at­ten­dant ef­fects of un­em­ploy­ment.

But Ari said that within the last two years, over 500,000 Nige­ri­ans had been trained in var­i­ous skills ac­qui­si­tion pro­grammes by the ITF.

Speak­ing on the new plan, he said al­though it fo­cused on nine key ar­eas of the ITF ser­vices, in­clud­ing di­rect train­ing ser­vices, rev­enue gen­er­a­tion and sus­tain­able fund­ing, spe­cial in­ter­ven­tion pro­grammes, stu­dents’ in­dus­trial work ex­pe­ri­ence scheme, re­search and de­vel­op­ment, as well as au­to­ma­tion of busi­ness pro­cesses, spe­cial at­ten­tion would be given to the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, vo­ca­tional skills train­ing and the de­vel­op­ment of small busi­nesses.

Un­der the plan, and as part of de­lib­er­ate ef­forts to drive the back-to-farm ini­tia­tive of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, and to train Nige­ri­ans along the agri-busi­ness value chain for job/wealth cre­ation and food se­cu­rity, Ari said the

ITF would de­velop an in­te­grated farm­ing model and use arable lands owned by the Fund across the coun­try to es­tab­lish demon­stra­tion farms. He said this would be used for train­ing Nige­ri­ans.

To ex­pand its skills ac­qui­si­tion pro­grammes, Ari said ar­range­ments had been con­cluded for pro­cure­ment of three ad­di­tional mo­bile train­ing vans, while vo­ca­tional wings will be es­tab­lished in its Awka, Maiduguri, Port Har­court, Akure, Gusau, and Minna area of­fices.

The ITF boss said the vo­ca­tional cen­tres would be used to train Nige­ri­ans within the states in var­i­ous trade ar­eas. For in­stance, he said the ITF would de­velop a cur­ricu­lum to ad­dress iden­ti­fied train­ing needs, as well as con­duct needs anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine train­ing needs in agri­cul­ture (food pro­cess­ing), hos­pi­tal­ity and trans­port sec­tors.

The skills de­vel­op­ment ex­pert also said the Fund would de­velop a cur­ricu­lum that would ad­dress the iden­ti­fied needs, adding that the cur­ricu­lum for spe­cial in­ter­ven­tion pro­grammes would be in line with iden­ti­fied trade ar­eas and global best prac­tices.

Find­ings by Daily Trust Satur­day also showed that the ITF would con­duct sur­veys to de­ter­mine dom­i­nant/rel­e­vant trades and mode of in­ter­ven­tion re­quired, as well as de­sign and de­velop cur­ricu­lum for pro­grammes im­ple­men­ta­tion in the iden­ti­fied trade ar­eas.

One sec­tor that has been heav­ily af­fected by COVID-19 is the MSMEs. It is im­per­a­tive that the ITF should re-en­gi­neer the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment sup­port ser­vices, as well as the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Fund’s Start and Im­prove Your Busi­ness model to boost pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­turn on in­vest­ment for the MSMEs.

In line with the huge eco­nomic dam­age caused by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, it is im­por­tant that some of these gov­ern­ment in­cu­ba­tion pro­grammes be im­ple­mented at no charge to clients.

While these plans may ap­pear dif­fi­cult to achieve at face value, Ari said with the sup­port of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, the or­gan­ised pri­vate sec­tor, non-gov­ern­men­tal and faith-based or­gan­i­sa­tions and other well-mean­ing Nige­ri­ans, the pro­jec­tions would be achieved.

The re­sul­tant ef­fect is increased so­cial in­sta­bil­ity, youth restive­ness and wors­en­ing in­se­cu­rity. Experts are of the view that the grow­ing un­em­ploy­ment fig­ure is a con­fir­ma­tion that growth in the econ­omy is still weak and not in­clu­sive.

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