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NBS- 16.9% of PhD holders in Nigeria are unemployed.
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NBS- 16.9% of PhD holders in Nigeria are unemployed. 

Based on research done by The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it was shown in its 2020 Q4 report that 16.9 percent of doctorate holders in Nigeria are currently unemployed.


Being the highest academic degree one could ever obtain, it may sound odd to find that persons holding the noble certificate will be out of employment for any reason. With this reality in view, one can only wonder how dependable the educational system in Nigeria is.


Data from the NBS report reveal that of about 74,000 persons with doctorate degrees in the country, slightly above 46,000, are fully employed while about 15,000 are underemployed. This leaves over 12,000 individuals out of the 73,859 total unemployed.


Estimates for the PhD holders’ category fare considerably better than the Master’s degree holders. While it is quite commendable to observe increasing MSc degree enrolment by Nigerians, it is sad to note that 27.8 percent of these individuals are jobless while about 18 percent of them are in jobs that do not reflect their actual training and financial needs.


Out of a total 33.3 percent unemployment rate in Nigeria, those in the A’ levels category constitute the largest pool of unemployed individuals in the country. Thus, among the 748,228 A’ levels graduates, about 273,000 persons are fully employed. In contrast, 169,570 persons work less than 20 hours daily, and 209,766 individuals have absolutely nothing to do to earn a living. In total, 379,336 A’ level holders in Nigeria are unemployed, representing 50.7 percent of all holders of the certificate.

Interesting as it looks, it is not uncommon to find that most A’ level holders are usually pressing towards attaining higher degrees, and only a sizable number use their diplomas to search for jobs. The same narrative can suffice for those holding the Bachelor’s degree certificate, except that a good number go-ahead to seek for foreign Master’s degree and would usually remain in their destination country while some others return to Nigeria to take up mid-level career positions in choice companies if they find one.


Most of the higher degree-seeking BSc graduates from Nigeria usually end up traveling to countries like the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Ireland, France, Germany, Cyprus, Ukraine, Russia, South Africa, and others, Ghana. Nigeria is, therefore, fast losing a good number of its most educated youngsters to other countries who provide them with basic life essentials they may not enjoy back home.

More saddening is the reality that PhD holders, who have dedicated a minimum of 3 years and sometimes up to 10 years in graduate school, can be without jobs or manage roles far below their resume, underestimating their training and skill. Those in the underemployment category usually earn far less than they should. Some resort to other belittling jobs to make ends meet.
In 2012, for instance, Vanguard newspaper reported that 6 PhD, 704 MSc and 8,460 BSc holders were among the 13,000 applicants for the Graduate Executive Truck drivers’ programme of the Dangote Group who needed only 100 drivers. Discounting the discussion between the need to provide and the prestige that comes with certain labour choices, it is clear that the seed of desperation to keep heads above water is evenly spread. The country’s citizens are bent towards survival, at least.


Individuals aged 15-24 are admittedly the worst hit in the unemployment category. The country’s innovative and energetic class have occupied an echelon characterised by daily loss of relevance, degradation of skills, desperation and constant allurement towards unwholesome acts like cybercrime, kidnapping, terrorism, prostitution, cultism, political thuggery and fake clergy activities.

With 15.4 percent unemployment and 19.8 percent underemployment rates, youngsters around the 15-24 years age strata will continue to remain potentially harmful instruments in the hands of political opportunists who constantly seek to control state resources to their advantage forcefully.


Another interesting fact from the NBS report is that the female folk constitute the larger percentage of unemployed (35.2 percent of females against 31.8 per cent for males) and underemployed (24.2 percent of females against 21.8 percent for males) in the country. This outcome undermines any effort towards female inclusion in Nigeria. At the same time, it signals increasing neglect for the relevance of the female gender in the country.


Undoubtedly, the government of Nigeria has the chance to do more for its citizens. Creating jobs while expanding the room for inclusiveness is a core task of the government. Also, keeping the business environment friendly enough to encourage private sector activities that would employ more idle hands is a must if the country must grow.

Expanding the opportunities space can ensure that the country will experience fewer losses of our best and most capable hands to other countries. Also, the indignity that comes with having the most intellectually prepared individuals staying out of employment or routing for odd jobs can become a thing of the past if proper focus is given to appropriate investment in education and employment generation.

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