The level of unemployment is a mirror image of the state of a nation's economy. Unemployment is the most exigent question facing policy makers and governments in recent times. Lack of gainful employment ranked high in the list of socio-political problems confronting Nigeria at present.
In Nigeria, over-dependence of the economy on oil brought a boom in the 1970s while economic recession set in since 1981. The recession has since had a very significant implication for the utilization of the country's human resources, leading to high level of unemployment. The problem has aggravated in the nation to the extent that many university graduates could not secure jobs, let alone school leavers.
According to the Federal Office of Statistics survey carried out in 1984, graduates from tertiary institutions formed 3.8% of the unemployed persons for urban areas, this rose to 9.9%, 16.5% and 20.8% in 1995, 1996 and 1998 respectively. Information from the survey also shows that out of the present output from the educational system entering the labour market as at 1996 which was 2.8 million, only 0.3 million were absorbed into the labour market.
The problem seems to be two-fold showing both demand and supply side. On the demand side, not only are there inadequate jobs for youths but also the increasing decline in quality of education and training, thus making many youths unemployed. On the supply side, the inability of the government to adequately finance the nation's educational enterprise has led to deteriorating infrastructural facilities and discouraging personal emoluments for teachers. (Though the situation has improved a bit in recent times). It was discovered that despite various government policies and programmes aimed at reducing unemployment among the youths and adults, the problem of unemployment remains unabated.
Further, economic analysis shows that low real wage among other things will induce employment - this situation seems to be otherwise in the case of Nigeria. Despite the relatively low real wage, the economy cannot still create employment for considerable part of manpower resources.
Generally, this study is meant to examine the pervasiveness of unemployment problem in the Nigerian economy. Unemployment has been found to reduce national wealth. Increase in crime waves and socio-political violence can also be attributed to the high level of unemployment especially among the youths. The growing incidence of poverty in Nigeria can also be linked to the worsening unemployment situation. This study is therefore necessary to give insight into how unemployment can be reduced to the barest minimum.
The problem of unemployment has posed a great challenge to many countries (both developed and developing). In recent times, the incidence of unemployment in Nigeria has been deep and widespread, cutting across all facets of age groups, educational strata and geographical entities.
Nigeria's unemployment problem is a post-independence phenomenon. According to the 1952/53 Census, the country experienced over-employment rather than unemployment during the early 1950s. This does not imply that all the people who were willing to work were employed; it only means that the unemployed were few and mainly structurally unemployed. They were either only temporarily out of employment or in the process of changing jobs. It also implies that the total number of people gainfully employed at the time exceeded the size of the potential labour force. Such a phenomenon can be explained in terms of the prevalence of child labour - persons aged less than 15 years being gainfully employed (Ojo, 1997).
Since the attainment of independence in 1960, the unemployment rate has been on the upward trend and infact, the rate attained in the 1990s are almost unprecedented in the history of a country that is supposed to be undergoing a development process. For instance in 1990, the national unemployment level was estimated at 3.2 percent (CBN, 1991), subsequently, the rate started declining and it fell to as low as 1.8 percent in 1995, but by 2000, the rate had risen to as high as 4.0 percent. According to the CBN 2003 report, the national unemployment rate was 2.3 percent. The observed decline could actually be attributed to increased informal sector activities, even though most of the people involved in such activities are actually underemployed. These declines may not truly reflect the situation in the labour market, as many of the unemployed are disenchanted and, therefore, may have no confidence in the employment exchanges to find them suitable jobs (Uniamikogbo, 1997).