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Age requirement fuels unemployment in Nigeria

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By Mercy Kelani

Nigerian graduates are unemployed for being older than 30 years.

Many Nigerian graduates have given up on their dreams as a result of the age requirements during recruitment. This situation has made majority of them settle for menial jobs which provides them with only peanuts and a chance of survival, contributing to the rate of poverty in the country. A Higher National Diploma holder in Accounting from the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, and 43-year-old motorcyclist, Omotoso Ajiboye, said that he had clocked 30 years when he graduated and the majority of the companies he applied to work for had age requirement between 25 and 28 years old, so he resorted to riding Okada to make money.

Another Nigerian, Temitope Aladesanwa, who graduated in 2014 from the political science department of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, submitted an application to work with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and Nigeria Immigration Service but failed due to the current guidelines due to the current age requirement. 38 and married with two kids, Aladesanwa now rides Okada to fend for his family. He stated that his unemployment problem started after his youth service when many companies requested five to ten years experience in the field that is being applied for.

Global unemployment rate is on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa.

Several federal agencies, during recruitment, give and emphasize specific age ranges, rejecting applicants who are above the age requirement. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), in its requirement for this year’s recruitment exercise, recently asserted that applicants must not be younger than 20 years and must not be older than 35 years of age to qualify for the first category — Assistant Superintendent of Narcotics I and Assistant Superintendent of Narcotics II. For the second and third categories — Narcotic Agent Cadre — applicants should not be older than 30 years or younger than 18 years.

Owing to the restricted age requirement for employment, the unemployment rate in the country, especially among the youths, has increased drastically. According to Statista, an online data company, about 6.3 million Nigerians were estimated to be unemployed in 2021, in comparison to 2020 (6 million people). The International Labour Organization, in its February 2023 report, made a projection that there would be a rise in the global unemployment rate this year. It cautioned that millions of people in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries would be confronted with the risk of high unemployment.

Bill to prohibit discrimination against jobseekers.

As a means of proffering a solution to the problem of age discrimination, in May 2019, the House of Representatives gave approval to prohibition of age discrimination against job seekers in Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA). The bill passed for approval was titled “ A bill for an act to prohibit discrimination against job seekers in federal government agencies (eradication) and allied matters act” was pushed by two lawmakers identified as Sergius Ogun (APC, Edo) and Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos).

According to Ogun, the bill presentation will enable protection of the fundamental rights of jobseekers while ensuring reduction of the rising number of unemployed graduates in the country. The bill gave the maximum age to get recruited into the federal civil service as 45 years. Section 3(1) and (2) of the bill says “no citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be deprived of employment in any of the agencies of the Federal Government on grounds that he/she is above 30 years of age. Any citizen of Nigeria that is 30 years and above but not above 45 years shall be entitled to gainful employment within any of the agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

Productive talents are lost to age restriction in job requirements.

Commenting on the reasons for the age restriction in job requirements, the Secretary of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Kwara/Kogi chapter, Gbenga Johnson, said the policy was targeted at employment of more active workers. He added that age limits are also implemented for reduction of the number of applicants. However, an economic expert and Chief Executive Officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr. Muda Yusuf, stated that the policy would lead to deprivation of productive talents for the economy.


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