Thursday, September 30, 2010

The ‘Baby Boom’ Generation: A Critical Specimen for Economic Liberation

A study* which was led by the Harvard School of Public Health and compiled by an independent task force convened by the British Council as part of its work to provide for young people around the world made an important discovery which may sound not too much of a deep revelation for a number of us who have closely studied the Nigerian polity and have made independent surveys and analysis. This is the linchpin of the report and which will serve has a spring board for my writing:
Nigeria stands on the threshold of what could be the greatest transformation in its history – with population growth and its ‘baby boom’ generation entering the workforce. By 2030, it will be one of the few countries in the world with young workers in plentiful supply.
According to the report, the average Nigerian could be 3 times richer by 2030 – and over 30 million people will be free from poverty.
While the UK government seems to be very keen on the positive side of this report they, the report itself was strong to emphasize the possible downside. The risks are as great as the opportunities: If Nigeria fails to plan for its next generation, it faces ethnic and religious conflict and radicalization, as a result of growing numbers of young people frustrated by a lack of jobs and opportunities. Nigeria needs to create 25million jobs over the next ten years – and move its focus away from oil, which contributes 40% to national GDP, but only employs a small percentage (about 10%).
This goes directly along with the ‘Y’-Index theory** explained in previous editions of ‘On The Road To 50’. Nations all over the world who have demographic advantages build their economy round it and make the greatest profit from it. For example some countries in Europe which have a higher percentage of its labour force being aged are implementing policies to further extend their retirement age. More recently, my Chinese friend that I met here in the UK told me about a policy that favoured women wherein men are responsible for majority of the work in the community including cooking of the food which is more or less a woman’s job in our contemporary Nigerian setting. Of course, it’s important to mention also that the economy of countries like India is labour deepening.
As we celebrate our golden jubilee anniversary in Nigeria, we need to draw the attention of our policy makers at various levels and, their specific and unspecific stakeholders at various capacity of the need to harness the various talents and potentialities in the Nigerian youth. This is yet another clarion call.
We have found ourselves on a crossroad as a nation and we need to make and implement these critical policies at this dire time. Failure to do so in due time will lead to a precarious situation characterized by crime and criminal activities carried out by young people who cannot be absorbed into the system for useful economic gain. This is already the situation at present and is bound to exacerbate if nothing is done about it urgently. David Bloom, Professor of Economics and Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health, who chaired the task force, said:
crossroads: one path offers a huge demographic dividend, with tremendous opportunity for widespread economic and human progress, while other path leaves Nigeria descending into quicksand. Nigeria’s most important asset is its young people – more important than oil.
Proven: young adults are powerful agents of beneficial change, especially if they are healthy and educated, with decent jobs.

*The report has been compiled by an independent Task Force – and the British Council does not necessarily agree with or endorse all views expressed.
. Previous Next Generation reports from the British Council are available online:
**Y-Index Theory was coined by Seun Oyeniran. It emphasizes the criticality of youth involvements in economic activities and based it upon an index factor that can be measured in weighted averages.
-Seun Oyeniran (27/9/2010)

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