Nigeria’s high unemployment rate is alarmingly rising and is projected to hit 40 percent before the end of 2023, and it doesn’t appear that a solution is in the offing. Age discrimination is one of the factors that contribute to the unemployment of many competent and qualified people.
In 2019, lawmakers in the House of Representatives approved a ban on age discrimination against job seekers in federal ministries, agencies, and departments.
The law applied to all Federal Government establishments, except for the security agencies, including the Nigerian Armed Forces, where there may be requirements for a high physicality level.
In addition, there is the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act of 2018 which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, which includes age-based discrimination.
But over the years, it seems the banking sector and some private companies continue to run their shows without paying enough attention to this embargo. Many of the job listings or adverts from the banks have one form of discrimination or the other.
On Thursday, 20th April 2023, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) announced on Linkedln that it was recruiting fresh university graduates for various positions.
The job vacancies have some conditions attached to them. Applicants must be university graduates with a 2.1 grade (Second Class Upper) and not more than 27 years.
The Linkedln post by UBA received lots of backlash from Nigerians. However, the criteria are not alien to other commercial banks in Nigeria. Almost all the banks discriminate using age and university leaving out some qualified prospects.
Anyaegbunam Kingsley, a self-employed financial expert who responded to UBA’s job post said certain factors make the age restriction unreasonable, especially in Nigeria where one could waste 6-7 years for a degree due to incessant strike actions.
There is no age discrimination in the Western World provided you’re qualified for the role, you are good to go, Anyaegbunam said. “So, please to whomever it may concern, we’re in the digital age let us dissolve age restrictions on job vacancies.”
According to Ramsis Oboye, who is currently seeking job opportunities, using age as a requirement for job roles in this 21st century is deadly. “Let’s change the status quo. Who invented this nuisance.”
However, there could be some justifications should it be looked at through the lenses of the banks. Some of the banks believe that younger employees are thought to be more energized and simpler to train, whereas older employees may be preferred because they are thought to be less adaptive and less productive.
According to Oyinade Adegite, Head of GTBank Corporate Communications, the age restriction exists to allow candidates for higher jobs to apply, not because older graduates aren’t energetic enough.
You know in this age and time, we’re in the millennial age, the young, savvy, and all that, agile people,” Mr. Moyol said, arguing that every organization has a reason for putting age requirements for jobs. “There are factors that call for that. I think it’s fair enough.”
Competitiveness of Banking Jobs
The average Nigerian graduate fancies and relishes the dream of landing a banking job after graduation. The banking sector provides many benefits due to an employer. It is a tough job yet highly rewarding in terms of pay, career growth, job security, etc.
Commercial banks directly oversee and employ their staff, while contract staff is recruited by outsourcing agencies. Workforce Group, a diversified human capital, outsourcing, and business consulting firm, and Integrated Corporate Services Limited are 2 of the prominent agencies they contract.
There are notable discrepancies between employees directly employed by the banks and staff contracted by the outsourcing agency in terms of pay, career growth, and job security.
Stanbic IBTC Bank employees make a median annual salary of N220,870 Naira – 109 Stanbic IBTC Bank employees compiled this data. While at Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) the entry-level staff takes home monthly about N209,000 as monthly remuneration as well as some other periodic benefits.
However, the case is different for contract staff who are mostly Higher National Diploma (HND) holders. Access Bank Plc. pays its non-contract between N70-N90K. This is against its basic level personnel (non-contract staff) who earns about N237,000- N250,000.
Chidinmma Nworie (not her real name), an HND holder who works with Access Bank in Lagos told TechEconomy that the future looks gloomy for contract staff due to a lack of career growth. “It’s difficult for them to convert you to a full-time staff even after being a contract staff for many years,” Chidinma said.
“I know a lady in my office who has been an Access Bank contract staff for 15 years, she is yet to become a staff. This is not what I plan for myself, I need to look for a job elsewhere. The jobs are demanding us, they keep switching us to different positions. The pressure is just too much,” she added.
Nigerian Banks from observations over the years prefer to advertise an opening to experienced university graduates rather than converting HND holders who are already contract staff in the same banks.
No More Discrimination
Kenechukwu Ojiaku, a Data Analyst said skill acquisition is the guaranteed way of becoming employable without facing the negative effects of discrimination.
“Get a skill and set yourself free from age segregation. You can learn data analysis and more financial tech skills.”
While there might be reasons to put the age factor into consideration, in general, banks can pay more focus to a candidate’s qualifications, skills, and abilities than their age. In developing countries like Nigeria where there may be a shortage of qualified talents and older workers may have essential experience and knowledge to impart to the workforce.