ILO/GYEF ends in Nigeria with call for systemic change, recommendations to address unemployment

SOJI-EZE FAGBEMI looks at the just concluded Global Youth Employment Forum (GYEF) organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Abuja, Nigeria and reports on the demands made by President Muhamadu Buhari on the Director-General of the ILO, ILO’s acknowledgement of Nigerians’ potential. This and the recommendations to address the issue of unemployment and underemployment.


The Global Youth Employment Forum (GYEF) organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Nigeria, the first in Africa ended in Abuja at the weekend, with a call for systemic change and recommendations to tackle youth unemployment, across the world.

The three-day event, which brought to Nigeria the number one worker in the world,  Director-General of ILO, Mr. Guy Ryder – the first of such visit by any ILO DG since Nigerian gained independence also brought over 250 youth from across the globe to Nigeria.

The event had in attendance the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who represented President Muhamadu Buhari. Also in attendance was the President of the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC) Comrade Quadri Olaleye, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Williams Alo, and the Presidents of some trade unions in Nigeria.

Addressing the gathering, the ILO DG described his visit to Nigeria as historic and acknowledged the competence and intelligence of Nigerians all over the world.

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Ryder said: “And let me add as well on behalf of the International Labour Organisation that I am very proud to be the first serving Director General of ILO to visit Nigeria. It has taken a little while, I hope that you take the view that is better late than never.

“Now, we should be realistic. There are plenty of good situations that we can observe. A lot of positive stories to tell, and about this best educated generation of young people that the world has ever seen.”

He added: “There is an overall picture which really require us to stop, to think and then to take action. Because the reality as captured in aggregated numbers is disturbing. 255 million young people are umemployed. Young women are three times more likely to figure amongst that number than young men.”

President Buhari who declared opened the Global Youth Employment Forum (GYEF) made a number of requests from the Director General. He called on the ILO to employ and place more Nigerians as associates and experts in the ILO’s offices in Geneva. He also requested for upgrading of the ILO Country Office in Nigeria into a Decent Work Country Technical Office for English speaking West African countries.

Besides, the president demanded for more ILO programmes and projects to be executed in Nigeria in view of the status of Nigeria in the ranks of member states; adding that the ILO has been Nigeria’s important ally in the promotion of decent work and social dialogue.

President Buhari said: “There is no doubt therefore that these two landmark events taking place in Nigeria and of course, for the very first time on the African Continent, are as a result of the cordial and fruitful working relationship between the ILO and the tripartite constituents of Nigeria in the last six decades.

“Given the long standing relationship between Nigeria and the ILO, I consider it in our national interest to reiterate our requests for the upgrading of the ILO country office in Nigeria into a decent work country technical office for English speaking West African Countries. I also call for the support of the ILO towards the placement of more Nigerians as associates and experts in the ILO’s offices in Geneva. We would similarly like to see more ILO programmes and projects executed in Nigeria in view of our status in the ranks of member states,” he said.”

He added: “The immense support and assistance received from our partner United Nations (UN) agencies, notably the ILO in the areas of policy reviews, institutional strengthening;

Human capacity development; implementation of dedicated programmes and Technical/Financial support cannot be over-emphasised. The International Labour Organisation has committed itself to youth employment and the future of work in Africa, with in-depth understanding of the rapidly changing demographics, the emerging world of work and the challenges of national economic stabilities.”

The President told the gathering that in the last three and half years, his government had provided about two million jobs through the N-power Programme and lifted over five million Nigerians out of extreme poverty; under the National Social Investment Program (NSIP) which has yielded some measurable outcomes.

“One of the key components of the NSIP, the N-power Program and its sub components, has led to the creation of job opportunities in different sectors of the economy for young persons. For example, in the past three and half years the programme has yielded over 2 million direct and indirect employment opportunities and has lifted over 5 million Nigerians out of extreme poverty,” he said.

In a resolution issued after the meeting, the participant agreed that the trends on youth un- and under-employment have been going in the wrong direction and required a serious systemic change.

The forum equally said that business as usual is not working for the youths; declaring therefore that recommendations and pillars made during the forum do not stand alone, “but are all required for systemic change.”

Acknowledging a whole of society and whole of government approach, the forum pointed out that the recommendations are not targeted at a single entity and should be advanced by all parties.

On the employment and economic policies, the Forum stressed the need to implement policies with the goal of employment target as opposed to solely economic growth; and called for a shift to models for conditional foreign direct investment that requires training and education, local youth employment, high quality jobs for youth, sustainability, and local culture.”

It also called for implementation of policies that redistribute global concentration of wealth through taxation, public and private investment, and wage growth; and those that will ensure the end of tax evasion and avoidance.

The Forum demanded for direct investment for youth employment in the creative economy; promotion of macroeconomic policies that grow employment seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce consumption, and build resilience against climate change and also ensure that supply chain policies create local value addition and decent jobs.

In the area of education, training and skills, the Forum charged governments, policy makers and employers of Labour to develop mechanisms to certify high tech, low tech, or indigenous tech knowledge and skills developed outside of formal education or training programmes.

It also demanded for development of mechanisms to formally translate skills, training, and certifications among jurisdictions to ensure that migrants have access to decent employment opportunities; and ensure that general education and training has a strong focus on soft skills, critical thinking, and adaptability.

Stakeholders must also ensure access to education as a means for social justice to enable participation in society and the exercise of rights; while employer organizations must invest in training the existing and potential workforce.

It called for a shift to a models of employment that fit jobs to individual youth, rather than requiring workers to fit a fixed model; and to create strong partnerships between governments, industry, academia, trade unions, and other social partners to ensure that traditional education and training programmes keep pace with economic changes.