Age discrimination in employment has become a major problem facing graduates and non-graduates in Nigeria. It has continued to enhance the unemployment situation in the country.
Take a look at vacancy adverts in Nigeria and you will see how they are equipped with age restrictions and sometimes certificate barriers.
A typical example reads, “Candidate must not be more than 25 years of age, must possess a good university degree with a Second Class Honours (Upper Division). Candidate must have at least 10 to 15 years of experience”. Emphasis hardly placed on competence.
Sadly, a practice which was mainly associated with the banking industry has spread to other sectors. Today, government institutions champion this course. Even foreign companies indulge in the practice when they do not have similar conditions in their own countries.
Many times you hear Nigerian unemployed graduates lament about the frustrations they face in searching for jobs. Hear one of them:
“I don’t really understand what is happening in this country. For the past eight months, I have been searching for a job, all to no avail. Even with a second class honours (Upper Division), which I suffered to get, I cannot be employed because I am more than 25 years.
“For how long will this age discrimination in employment continue in this country? If you are not rejected because you are above the required age, your application is turned down because you don’t have the required years of experience. Now, tell me, how can I have the requisite experience if no employer wants to give me opportunity to work?”
The question is, why render graduates jobless under the guise of age requirement? How many Nigerian graduates can meet the qualification stipulated by these companies particularly when viewed against the fact that an average Nigerian graduate may have clocked 26 years upon graduation from the university.
Even when a student plans to graduate before 25 years, the prevailing ugly situations in the country’s education sector wouldn’t make that possible.
A situation where the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other unions in tertiary institutions embark on persistent strike actions, the dream of timely graduation of Nigerian students, particularly those in public universities, become very unrealistic.
The prevailing economic situation in the country does not make the matter any better as some people who would have desired to start school early, cannot achieve that due to lack of financial assistance. Some are compelled to wait for their elder ones to graduate before they enroll in school.
Not a few are compelled to stop schooling at a point, engage in some form of petty trading or odd jobs in order to raise money for their school fees.
There is, therefore, need to check the age issue as it relates to employment in the country. Section 2205 of the Federal Government Public Service Rules say that an applicant must not be less than 15 years or more than 50 years. It is, therefore, illegal and inhuman for employers to continue to deny job seekers employment on age grounds.
Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), multinationals, corporate and private organisations and other employers of labour, should in the interest of the organisations and the unemployed Nigerian graduates, remove the age barrier to employment.
An individual must be judged primarily based on skill and ability to perform on the job rather than age. Let competence be their watchword. If this issue is not given the needed urgent attention, the fight against corruption in the country would be a wishful thinking as graduates would continue to forge certificates and tell lies about their age.
The ugly trend where many Nigerian workers have two ages (the official and the real age), will continue to prevail. Nigeria is currently battling with insecurity and other social problems, and the continuous denial of employment to the numerous unemployed youth due to their age will not be in the interest of the country.
Let’s emulate the civilised countries of the world that have fought against age discrimination in employment matters through active legislations. There is need for the federal government to take a second look at our labour laws.
The problems we have had in education really demand that government looks at employment from a realistic point of view. It is necessary we put an end to the wrangling in the education sector to enable students graduate when they ought to.