Graduate Unemployment in Nigeria: A Remedy

graduate unemployment in Nigeria

The question of if there is graduate unemployment in Nigeria does not need verified data and statistics to be answered. The answer to such a question is around us. It is not news that most graduates are Okada riders, Keke drivers, Bus drivers, and teachers in many private schools. In today’s article, we want to answer the following questions:

  • Why are many college graduates unemployed?
  • How will it be mitigated?
    • Before we continue, this is a summary of what we learned about graduate unemployment in Nigeria.
  • Graduate unemployment in Nigeria has been on a continuous growth since 2010.
  • In the United States, graduate unemployment rose to 13.2% in June 2020, before it began to fall. It stood at 6.3% by January 2021.
  • Generally, the COVID-19 pandemic has a great impact on employment in 2020.
  • According to the NBS, youth unemployment in Nigeria has been on the increase since 2015. Youth unemployment rose from its lowest level of 7.8% in 2015 to a peak of 13.96% in 2019.
  • Innovative thinking, entrepreneurship, education, and learning were identified to remedy the graduate unemployment in Nigeria.
  • Facts derived from the study:
    • The impetus to a higher level of development of any country’s economy lies in the general educational achievement of the country’s citizens.
    • The ability of students to succeed is determined, not only by the degrees they earn but also by the quality and relevance of what they learn to the changing labor market.
    • To effectively impart knowledge, the commitment of the learner and the teacher is required
graduate unemployment in Nigeria

Graduate Unemployment Rate

On the 17th of October 2018, Daily News reported that graduate unemployment in the UK fell to 5.1%. This figure is indicated to be the lowest since 1979 when it stood at 4.9%. The paper further reported that the decrease in college graduate unemployment was a result of skill shortages across industries. As a result, prospective college graduates were able to gain entry to fill shortages in IT, engineering, accountancy, and marketing.

In the United States, the graduate unemployment rate stood at 3.9% as of December 2019. This rate is pretty low compared to that of the UK, but higher than the rate as of December 2018.

graduate unemployment in Nigeria: The US scenario
US Graduate Unemployment

The unemployment rate in the US from 2001 is dramatic because of the popular 9/11 that ravaged the economy of the United States. Before the incidence, the unemployment rate stood at 4.6%. After the incidence, rates rose drastically to 5.7% in November 2001. This was the beginning of the economic recession in the US. By October 2009, it skyrocketed to a maximum of 10%. By September 2015, it fell to 5.1% and has continued the downward trend till February 2020 when it stood at 3.5%.

However, the rate rose to 4.4% in March 2020 and reached 14.8% in April 2020 due to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. From May 2020, it started a downward trend and stood at 6.3% by January 2021.

unemployment rate in the US: graduate unemployment
Unemployment Rate

In India, Deccan Herald reported a 16.3% graduate unemployment and 14.2% post-graduate unemployment. However, it noted that the national average across all educational levels stood at 5%. On the 23rd of September 2018, Financial Tribune reported that the graduate unemployment rate in Iran stood at 19.4%. According to the report, “Out of 12.5 million university graduates, only about 7.1 million or 56.9% were economically active last year, of whom 5.7 million or 80.6% were employed and 1.4 million or 19.4% were unemployed.”

Unemployment Rate in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the National Bureau of Statistics reports an unemployment rate of 27.1%, an underemployment rate of 28.6% while youth unemployment/ underemployment stood at 34.9% as of Quarter 2 in 2020. Since January 2015, the rate of unemployment in Nigeria has been rising. Beginning from 6.4% to 23.1% in July 2018. The diagram below depicts a chart of the rising unemployment rate in Nigeria.

unemployment rate in Nigeria: graduate unemployment in Nigeria
Nigeria Unemployment Rate 2010 – 2019

Similarly, youth unemployment in Nigeria has risen from 11.7% in January 2015 to 36.5% in July 2018 as indicated in the diagram below.

graduate unemployment in Nigeria: Youth unemployment rate
Youth Unemployment Rate

In 2016, Sahara reporters reported that about 45.75% of Nigerian graduates are unemployed. This figure was derived from a survey conducted by Jobberman. Though not from any government institution or research organization, the figure is not far from the actual considering the rate of youth unemployment.

This rising rate of unemployment and youth unemployment has been an issue of concern to individuals, institutions, and policymakers. As a result, issues relating to unemployment have made news headlines of some National dailies.

For instance, in June 2017, Business Insider reported that the unemployment rate has hit 21%. According to the report, “Nigeria has high youth unemployment (25.2%), while about 61.5% of those with gainful employment are working below their minimum capability and capacity (Underemployment rate).”

In February 2018, Vanguard reports that the crisis of unemployment would disrupt the Federal Government from reaching its goal of becoming the top 20 leading economies in the world by 2020. According to the report, “The socio-economic environment is becoming harsher for businesses to thrive, thereby frustrating the capacity of businesses to sustain and create employment.”

Mitigating Graduate Unemployment in Nigeria

The later report reveals the danger of unemployment in a developing economy. As a result, many have proffered solutions to reduce this rising rate. Some of the remedies to curb graduate unemployment in Nigeria include:

Innovative thinking

One solution proffered by Kachi Ogbonna is innovation and a fundamental shift in thinking. He believed that Nigeria is filled with more opportunities that can accommodate any idea any youth can come up with. I strongly subscribe to his stand, and this is the course we are pursuing to make Nigeria what it ought to be.


Entrepreneurship is a concept that enables people to develop an idea, nurture the idea, and bring it to reality. At the heart of every entrepreneur is the motive to make a profit. An entrepreneur sees the possibility in everything s/he does, hence, he/ she is not afraid of taking a risk. Getting the youths and undergraduates to subscribe to entrepreneurship will help reduce youth and indeed college graduate unemployment.


The role of education in curbing unemployment cannot be overemphasized. Education has been advocated as a tool for national development, especially, in the long run. Nations that understand this have put education at the forefront of their policies. Lionel Wijesiri underscored the role of education in curbing college graduate unemployment in any nation. According to him,

“The impetus to a higher level of development of any country’s economy lies in the general educational achievement of the country’s citizens. The ability of students to succeed is determined, not only by the degrees they earn but also by the quality and relevance of what they learn to the changing labor market.”

There are other solutions that have been advocated by different people. Some of them include expansionary fiscal policy, reduction in interest rate, reformation of the agricultural sector, change in the university curriculum, and many more.

Learning: a Remedy to Graduate Unemployment in Nigeria

In addition to the above-proffered solutions, it should be noted that education can be made better through learning. According to Wikipedia, learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences.

Learning is the foundation of knowledge. Without learning, every teaching effort is futile. Therefore, it is important that teachers, instructors, facilitators, and educators at all levels pay attention to their audience. They should understand their audience first. Also, they should determine the most effective type of learning suitable for the audience. To achieve this, they need to:

  1. Interact with their audience
  2. Know and focus on what turns them on/off, and
  3. Determine what catches their attention and build on them

Educators should understand that to effectively impart knowledge, the commitment of the learner and the teacher are required.

Why Learning?

During my third year at the university, I remember learning a course called distribution theory. Many might know, but till today, I have not understood the application of this course in my life. The key problem was that our lecturer kept emphasizing theory, as the name implied, without application. In fact, the lecturer ended up frustrating me and others. In a situation like this, how can the students learn? When students are being frustrated by their instructors, what should they do?

In my final year, we were taught a course called multivariate analysis. A wonderful course, I loved this course. On one occasion, a drama happened in the class.

On that fateful day, our lecturer kept writing figures on the board and we kept copying, waiting for an explanation. When the explanation was not forthcoming, one of us raised his hand and asked; “Sir, please, how did you arrive at ‘that figure’.” The lecturer responded; “because that is the answer. I have been teaching this course for over 20 years and I know the figures by heart.”

The answer left us more confused. In fact, the answer instilled fear in us that we could not ask further questions. I ask again, how will the students understand? How will they apply what is being taught when they don’t understand? They might manage to pass the exam, but can they apply the knowledge to real-life problems? 

Learning in our schools

Some educators do not care to know if their audience is learning. They do not pay attention to their level of understanding. They are not concerned about their learning curiosity. Actually, their question is an aberration.

Why is it so? What did you observe that could be the cause? From my observation, I found that most of them are interested in money-making. This could come from monthly salary, instruction materials, or other sources. No wonder examination malpractice has become the other of the day in our schools.

When educators fail to teach the students, students themselves would bear the burden of learning. In reality, they will figure out how best to pass the examinations and obtain their certificate. In their mind, they are saying, this is what society wants.

learning in the class

(Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)

This is the state of our education system and it has been, and its persistence has made learning unbearable. Some have said that our graduates are not employable. This is one of the reasons. Think about it.

How can they be employable when they were not being taught? How can they be employable when all they were taught is a theory? How can they be employable when they do not know how to do? How can they be employable when all they know is definition, description, state, …?

These things do not solve problems, they only explain. To solve real-world problems, you need to know how? But then how is not taught. Learning in our schools will be perfected when how is part of our teaching and learning process. Technology has made teaching and learning process easier for educators. We really need to implement some of these technologies in our education system.

I think our educational system needs a complete overhaul. Most of our curriculum is outdated coupled with an outdated method of teaching and learning. When I was in school, all we were taught in computer science were BASIC, FORTRAN, and PASCAL.

In as much as I understood their importance and the fundamental concepts, they teach in programming. What happened to C/C++, what about C#, JAVA, and other modern programming languages. Besides, we did not even see any computer not to think of practicing programming.

In those days, I heard about Visual Basic from an outsider. For years, they are still using the same curriculum. This is why graduates of computer science cannot boast of writing a simple program to solve a problem.

Applied knowledge is the basis for employment

The situation worsened when those who were sent on Industrial Training ended up seeking for where they will be heavily paid rather than where they will learn how. This is how well most of our undergraduates can think.

They forgot that the school system has denied them what they should know. They forgot that they are unemployable except if they know the how. They forgot that to learn how they must figure it out themselves. They forgot to figure out how they must devote themselves to learning.

They must think creatively and they must focus on the solution. Those who solve problems and are solving problems today can testify to this truth. I am not condemning money. Of course, money is good, I like money too. But I’ve learned that it should not be chased. It should not be paramount in your journey to learning. If you get things right, the money will, rather, chase you.


To reduce the rate of college graduate unemployment, our undergraduates should learn not to wait for educators to teach them everything.

In life, no one will teach you everything. You have to figure some things out by yourself. We must grow to learn how to solve problems using the knowledge we have acquired. We are the captain of our own lives.

We should not wait for others to direct things for us. We must direct our lives and careers by directing our thoughts and belief. Keep your eyes at your destination by learning how to get there.

Also, college graduate unemployment can be reduced through creative thinking. Creative thinkers are concerned about doing because doing solve problems. This is what the world wants. Though our education system does not guarantee that, we must not be handicapped by them.

The future is brighter, do not let the present limit your goal in life. Learn to be employable. Learn to solve problems. Be creative! Your future depends on it.

There are various ways of learning that will be useful to educators and learners. We discussed them in our last post.

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