Youth Employment in Nigeria: A Vehicle for Decent Work and Economic Growth

The United  Nations, for statistical purposes, defines youth as young people between the ages of 15- 24 while the Nigeria Youth Population policy through the National Bureau of Statistics identifies the Youth population in Nigeria from 15- 35 years.  Young people are the future of any nation, and Nigeria is no exception. Nigeria has one of the highest youth populations in the world, with 1.6 billion young people, accounting for 70 per cent of the country’s population. This ever-growing youth population presents a unique opportunity for economic growth and development if properly harnessed.

Despite the vast potential of the youth population, unemployment remains a significant concern for Nigeria and its citizens. The Q3 2023 data from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics reveals an increase in the youth unemployment rate from 15.5 per cent in Q2 to 17.3 per cent in Q3. Notwithstanding the persisting unemployment rate in Nigeria, we have seen a significant involvement of young people in different sectors, including the informal and formal sectors, such as ICT, entrepreneurship, creative and entertainment, and skilled labour forces.

In the entrepreneurship industry, we have seen young Nigerians like Chioma Ukpabi, founder, SUWK and Mohammed Yayandi, founder of YandyTech, transforming the world of work by providing vocational and technological skills to young people in underserved communities.

Markfred Ijeoma, as the Coordinator of YALI  Abia Network, is creating an avenue where youth in Abia state are equipped with entrepreneurship skills and tech skills such as digital marketing for gainful employment. Favour Adeleke, the founder of QiQi Farms Global, is creating decent jobs for other young people and contributing to economic growth through QiQi Farms Global. To learn more about the young people spotlighted by NGYouthSDGs, contributing to Decent Work and Economic Growth, click here.

However, to further harness the potential of Nigeria’s youth population, the causes of youth unemployment must be addressed. These include the lack of access to quality education, skill mismatch, technological advancement, and an increase in population, resulting in fewer job opportunities. 

Causes of Youth Unemployment in Nigeria

In 2020, following the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the livelihoods and employment of young people,  NGYouthSDGs conducted a nationwide survey among young men and women in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, International Labour Organization, and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to understand the decent work aspirations of young Nigerians. It was an opportunity to learn and identify the causes of youth employment in Nigeria.


  • Lack of access to quality education: Access to quality basic education and a learning system is a foundation for further learning. A UNICEF report states that one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. About 10.5 million children aged between 5-14 years are not in school. Unfortunately, these are the children that will still make up the ever-growing youth population. Understanding the labour market dynamics requires at least basic education, vocational training, or some form of formal education.
  • Skill mismatch: Picture this: A young, vibrant Nigerian spends years in the university, learning and developing skills, only to graduate and discover that the skills required in the labour market or workplace are entirely different. Skill mismatch has been a major contributor to unemployment in Nigeria, a disconnect between the skills possessed by job seekers and those demanded by employers.
  • Technological advancement: The rapid pace of technology leads to the creation of new jobs, while others become obsolete. This means that traditional educational systems may struggle to keep up with new tech-inclined courses and learning required to equip students or young graduates with emerging trends in the world of work.
  • Increase in population, fewer job opportunities: The increase in the population puts pressure on the job market, making it highly competitive and contributing to fewer job opportunities.

Addressing Youth Unemployment

  1. Promoting Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET): During the survey carried out by NGYouthSDGs to understand the Decent Work Aspiration of youth, 45 per cent of young women and 38 per cent of young men were of the opinion that completing education (formal education, apprenticeship, vocational training) is a major contributor to employment. This highlights the importance of quality education, whether technical or vocational, in ensuring access to decent job opportunities and a smooth transition into the labour market.
  2. Policy Implementation: The Nigerian government is focused on tackling unemployment in Nigeria, as reflected in policies that have been put in place, including the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the National Employment Policy (NEP), and the revised National Youth Employment Action Plan (NIYEAP). The revised NIYEAP (2021-2024) aims to contribute to the achievement of the job creation target of the National Youth Policy (2019) to create 3.7 million jobs annually from 2019 to 2023.  Beyond policy formulation, implementation plays a greater role in tackling unemployment and access to decent jobs for youth. 
  3. Youth Employment Programmes: Youth Employment Programmes such as the Employability Workshop for Youth organised by NGYouthSDGs are effective in enlightening fresh graduates and young job seekers about the skills required in the labour market. These programmes arm them to navigate the labour market, and access information and resources they need to bridge skills gaps. 
  4. Promote Inclusion: Vulnerable and marginalised groups can be supported by creating training to equip them and raising awareness of their rights and safety at work. 
  5. Support for Small and Medium-Sized Entrepreneurs (SMEs): Small business owners can be supported through mentorship programs, providing financial assistance, and tax incentives. 
  6. Public-Private Partnerships: Effective collaboration between the public and private sectors creates internship programs, apprenticeships, and employment opportunities for young people.

Now, more than ever, appropriate actions are required to tackle unemployment in Nigeria and ensure that young people access decent jobs, understand their rights at work, and are equipped to contribute to economic growth. This will, in turn, lead to the achievement of SDG 8 and sustainable development in Nigeria.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial to take appropriate actions to tackle youth unemployment in Nigeria and ensure that young people access decent jobs, understand their rights at work, and are equipped to contribute to the country’s economic growth and development. With the right strategies and policies implemented, Nigeria’s youth population can become an active contributor to the country’s workforce, driving economic development and improving actions to achieve SDGs.