One of the most critical challenges facing Nigeria today is unemployment especially among 15 to 34 year-olds. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2015, about 30.4% of young people in this age group were unemployed. Meanwhile, based on the 2016 census, this age group makes up 35.6% of the population. Something drastic needs to be done.
Many reasons have been advocated for the unemployment crisis in Nigeria. One reason put forward is the failure to transform the economy from one in which the majority are employed in subsistence agriculture to one in which manufacturing is a significant employer. Rather, the economy is transiting from agriculture to services and has failed to deliver a large number of quality jobs to absorb the millions that enter the labor force every year.
Another popular reason is the quality of recent Nigerian graduates and the paucity of certain skills. For example, quality electricians and plumbers are in short supply. The educational system has thus been unable to meet the demands of Nigerian employers. The consequences include low productivity of the labor force and offshoring of jobs that the country badly needs.
To change the dynamics will require solutions both orthodox and radical. My radical proposal that could be quickly implemented is to reduce the retirement age of civil servants from 60 to 55 and the number of years of service from 35 to 30. The bar should also be lowered for polytechnic and university lecturers whose retirement age is now 65 and 70 respectively to age 60.
Some of the benefits of this proposal are:
First, millions of jobs will be created immediately. This will enable younger, eager, motivated and cheaper Nigerians to be employed.
Secondly, with a younger workforce, the reform of the civil service to a more efficient and fit for purpose service will be accelerated.
Thirdly, the retired civil servants will leave the labor force at 55 when they are still young enough to start a business and create jobs should they wish.
Finally, it will reduce the intergenerational unfairness that has created a situation whereby younger people are shut out of the labor force and are forced to waste their formative years and for the best to leave the country. For example, the retirement age for university and polytechnic lecturers was changed by former president GEJ due to pressure from ASUU. Brilliant minds are now forced to flee the country and the educational sector continues to suffer. The retirement age for lecturers in polytechnics and universities should be dropped to 60. Meanwhile, the retired professors can be engaged on short-term consultancies as required. The professors can also devote their energies to writing first class study materials, something that is sorely lacking in the country.
Developed countries have the luxury of high life expectancy. Unfortunately for us in Nigeria, our life expectancy is still in the 50s range. Therefore, it makes sense to lower the retirement age to enable retirees to enjoy the fruits of their labor and for those that can, to start a business. Importantly, this change will improve intergenerational fairness and could stave off a potential crisis and buy time for the government to implement other job creation policies.
Retirement at 55 has the potential to solve the unemployment crisis. What do you think? Let’s have your thoughts below.