The problem of economic and social progress has been a major concern of many nations in both the developed and developing countries of the world. Thus, different nations adopt varied strategies in achieving economic and social progress (Omuta and Onokerhoraye, 1995). Development planning was the main strategies used by many governments and organizations to set their visions, missions, goals, and effective means of realizing development. Development planning has been a consistent phenomenon in Nigeria since 1946. The Nigerian government has aspired to achieve development through the use of various types of plans, namely short term (Annual Budget), medium and long term plans. The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) which is the country’s poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) is the latest in the history of medium term plans for the country and promises to surmount some of the problems that marred the success of previous plans (Marcellus, 2009).

With rapid population growth in Nigeria, unemployment has since become a major issue of concern to successive government in Nigeria since the 1960s. The negative effects of unemployment on Nigerian economy cannot be over emphasized. It results in non-utilization of resources leading to low productivity. It is also a major cause of rural-urban drift which has led to congestion problems in the urban centres with its attendant problems such as urban unemployment, destitution and high rate of criminal activities, among other problems (Fasoranti, 2010). Unemployment is a serious impediment to social progress. Apart from representing a colossal waste of a country’s manpower resources, it generates welfare loss in terms of lower output thereby leading to lower income and well-being (Akimbo, 1987; and Raheem, 1993). In the light of the above, successive governments in Nigeria have made several attempts to solve this social menace. One of the major strategies was the mainstreaming of employment creation programmes and policies into the National Development Planning. Consequently, all the post-independence National Development Plans had employment generation and promotion of gainful employment among their cardinal objectives. This paper assesses the accomplishments, challenges and prospects of the various employment promotion schemes as outlined in the various development plans in Nigeria.

National development plans in Nigeria

Development planning in Nigeria can be classified under three eras. These are the Era of Fixed- Term Planning (1962-85), the Era of Rolling Plan (1990-1998), and the New Democratic Dispensation (1999 till date). The Era of Fixed Medium Term Plan (1962-1985) witnessed four successful plans in Nigeria. These are the First National Development Plan (1962-1968), the JORIND Second National Development Plan (1970-1974), the Third National Development Plan (1975-1980) and the Fourth National Development Plan (1981-1985). The first plan covered the period 1962-63-1967-68 and provided for capital expenditure of 2.2 billion Naira. The implementation of the plan was extended to 1969-70 due to the Nigerian civil war. One major employment promotion scheme in the First National Development Plan was the establishment of the National Manpower Board (NMB) in 1962. The Second National Development Plan covers the period 1970-1974 with a capital expenditure of about 3 billion Naira. The Plan witnessed attempts to rectify some of the shortcomings of the first development plan. The planning machinery was strengthened, the need for public input was recognized by preceding the plan preparation by a national conference on economic development and reconstruction, and the need for inputs from various levels of government, ministries and agencies especially relevant planning agencies like the National Manpower Board and Federal Office of Statistics, and an Advisory Body made up of representatives drawn from the universities, trade union, other ministries and the private sector.

The Third National Development Plan began in 1975 with a plan total capital expenditure of 30 billion Naira. This was later revised to 43.3 billion Naira. In terms of sheer magnitude, the Third National Development Plan represented a major departure from its predecessors and constituted a watershed in the country’s planning experience (Federal Ministry of National Planning, 1981). However, the government could only spend N29.43 billion out of the projected expenditure of N43.3 billion as reviewed. The Fourth National Development plan covers the period 1981-1985. The overriding aim of the plan is to bring about an improvement in the living conditions of the people. The Plan is the first plan to be formulated by a democratically elected government under a new constitution based on the presidential system of government. Again, with a projected capital expenditure of 82 billion, the plan is considerably bigger than all its predecessors. Thirdly, it is the first plan in which the local governments participated in its design and formulation (Federal Ministry of National Planning, 1981).

The Rolling plan era (1990-1998)

The First National Rolling Plan covered the period 1990-1992. The main objective was to consolidate the achievements made so far in the implementation of the Structural Adjustment programme and address the pressing problems still facing the economy. One of the key priority programmes of the First National Rolling Plan was the strengthening of the on-going programmes of the National Directorate of Employment. The Second National Rolling Plan (1993-1995) marks the beginning of the second cycle of three-year Rolling Plan. The general policy measures of the Second National Rolling Plan include tackling the observable lapses and inefficiencies in the operation of monetary and credit instruments, low level of capacity utilization of industries and the rising trends of unemployment. The 1994/96 and the 1997/99 Rolling Plans have employment generation as its priority programmes (National Planning Commission, 2000). With the returned to democratic governance in Nigeria, the new administration started development planning in 1999 with the initiation of a four-year medium term plan document, the National Economic Direction (1999-2003). The plan had the primary object of pursuing a strong, virile and broad- based economy with adequate capacity to absorb externally generated shocks. While being a new plan document, the objectives and policy direction was not significantly different from that to which the country has followed since the introduction of SAP. NEEDS is described as Nigeria’s plan for prosperity. It is a four-year medium term plan for the period 2003 to 2007. NEEDS is a federal government plan, which also expected the states and local governments to have their counterpart plans- the State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS) and the Local Government Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (LEEDS) respectively.

From the above review of government development planning from 1970 till date, it is obvious that employment creation has featured prominently in all the plans. This underscores the importance attached to employment by successive governments in Nigeria. The impact of these employment promotional schemes on the unemployment levels in Nigeria requires periodic assessment with a view to determining the extent to which plans meet its stated development objectives.

Employment promotion programmes in Nigeria

Successive Nigerian National Development Planning has stressed the importance of manpower development, utilization, promotion and creation of job opportunities. The policies and programmes that were put in place in some of the previous plans to address areas of manpower lapse are discussed below.

  • Expatriate Quota Allocation Policy (1963). The aim was to ensure that expatriate were only employed in areas with persistent acute shortage of indigenous personnel (Adeyemi, 1996).
  • ITF, CMD and ASCON. The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Decree No.47 of 1971 made it mandatory for all employers with 25 employees and above to pay a training level of 1% of their annual payrolls to the ITF while employers were to be reimbursed up to 60% of the cost of training programmes arranged for their employees on annual basis. The purpose of this was to promote the employment of indigenous manpower through enhanced training programmes. The fund is also a major contributor to the training programmes of the Centre for Management (CMD) which was established by an enabling decree in 1976.
  • National Directorate of Employment (NDE) was established on November 22nd 1986, an enabling decree – Decree No. 24 of 1989 – gave it legal backing and made it the national agency for tackling unemployment in the country. The overriding objectives of NDE were to give training opportunities to the unemployed, especially the youth, by providing guidance, finance and other support services, to help them create jobs for themselves and for others.
  • National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) which commenced operation in 2002. The impact of these programmes and policies on employment generations over the years will be assessed with a view to determining the effectiveness of the policies in addressing unemployment problems in Nigeria.

Achievements of employment promotion and creation schemes in Nigeria

Nigeria’s labour force has continued to grow in line with the growth in population and natural age-specific transition in the economy. This indicates a 253.0%, 211.3%, and 6.0% growth of labour force, employment and unemployment rate respectively in Nigeria within the period under review. A quick peep at the table reveals that that gap between labour and employment was about 340, 000 in 1970. In 1985 which coincides with the era of fixed medium term planning, the difference between labour force and employment was about 1,400, 000 and this marked the beginning of sudden increase in unemployment rate in Nigeria. This situation have being attributed to several factors such as fluctuation in the price of oil in the international market, high population growth rate, poor planning and mismanagement on the part of government among other factors. By the year 1990-1998 which also coincides with the era of Rolling Plan, the difference between labour force and employment was 2, 120, 000 while unemployment has risen to 10.0% from 7.75% in 1990. In the year 2008, the gap has widened to about 8, 440, 000 while unemployment has risen to 13.6%. The wide gap between labour force and employment indicates the level of unemployment in Nigeria. By 1970, the unemployment rate was 1.93% and rose to 4.40%, 7.7% and 13.60% in 1980, 1990 and 2008 respectively.

A critical examination of the different eras of development plans will reveal that much progress was made in terms of employment generation during the era of fixed medium term planning in Nigeria. This can be seen from the little gap between labour force and employment within the period. The policies and programmes that were put in place during this era is the expatriate quota allocation policy, ITF, CMD and ASCON. It can therefore be argued that government employment generation programmes did much employment generation in Nigeria within the period. The eras of the rolling plans and the democratic dispensation were the period unemployment became very visible. The labour force grew from 47million of which 87% were employed in 1999, to 54million of which 88.9% were employed in 2005. Aggregate wage employment in industries and businesses increased from about 3.66million in 1999 to about 4.52million in 2005. This indicates that the labour force has witnessed about 33.7% growth since 1980 while the employment recorded 37.5% over the period under investigation. More importantly, unemployment has recorded 30.9% growth within the period under review. With the various employment promotion schemes of government, it is expected that the rate of unemployment will witness a downward trend or at least be stable but this has not being the case. The present high percentage (13.60%) rate of unemployment only indicates that the various employment promotional schemes and other economic policies of government have not done much to addressing the unemployment problems in Nigeria. This finding is greatly supported by Akinoye (2008) who noted that the economic and financial structural reforms put in place in Nigeria have not yielded significant results in terms of employment generation. Figure 1 shows the relationship between labour force and employment in Nigeria from 1970 to 2008.


The main policy lesson to be gleaned from the foregoing discussion is the fact that the worsening incidence of unemployment scenario in Nigeria cannot be entirely attributed to policy failures and ineffectiveness of the employment oriented programmes that were mainstreamed in the successive development plans but to the generality of the entire development plans. Generally, the employment generating capacity of the Nigeria economy has been weak since the end of the oil boom in 1981 and the economic recession of 1981-1985. The adoption of the Structural Adjustment Programme (1986-1988) was intended to have a positive impact on employment generation in Nigeria but the reverse was the case. What is of fundamental importance at the moment is the adoption of sound monetary and fiscal policy measures and political will that will engender employment generation in Nigeria. The NEEDS policy runs till date.


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