Five Talking Points From The Latest NBS Jobs and Unemployment Report

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JobsPolitics and Policy

On Wednesday, Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) published labor force report for the period between last quarter of 2017 and third quarter of 2018.

The figures make for sobering, if grim, reading. In one year, 966,000 people lost their jobs raising unemployment in Nigeria from 18.8% to 23.1%.

It does not match up with claims by the Presidency that the Buhari administration has created 12 million jobs from rice farming. In an interview on Channels TV, Garba Shehu had alluded to a presidential directive asking the Statistician-General Yemi Kale to change its figures which, according to the presidency, only reflected white collar jobs. This raised skepticism about integrity in the days leading up to the release of the report.

The NBS has, however, published what seems an approximate depiction of the mood in the nation; that of widespread unemployment an underemployment. Nigeria’s combined youth unemployment and underemployment is 55%. What this means is that less than 5 in 10 young people within the working population have jobs that can be rank them as employed.

Considering 60% of Nigeria is composed of this working population, it must be a headache for present and future policymakers.

The past year seems to have been particularly bad for women. While men gained 4.9 million jobs within the year, women lost 4.5 million, amounting to a rise in female unemployment from 21.2% to 26.6%. This occurrence should provoke interest into what patterns may have produced this. Finding answers to curious questions like this require looking back a few months to years before the period under review.

Are there workplace conditions making it difficult for women to hold on to their jobs? Think about what Market March is trying to tackle and realize how such issues may affect women who want to set up businesses.

Many Closed Shops

But here is another sobering and important detail: nearly 20% of those who lost previous jobs within the year were employers. 177,551 people, for reasons open to debate but not uneasy to imagine, closed their businesses in Nigeria. The ripple effect of employers shutting down their enterprise manifests in many areas from overall increase in unemployment and lower purchasing power among individuals, to slower activity in commodity markets and more stress in families.

Still Searching

The point above is bad news but the fact there are 8.8 million people who have never worked makes it more clear. Who will hire these new inexperienced workers when job creators are closing shops?
This high number of people still searching for a first job may be a good argument against enforcing uniform unrealistic minimum wages across the country.

Population Burst?

As with the release of sad statistics of this nature, alarm is being raised about population growth. Akin Oyebode of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund notes, in a commentary on the report, that a “5.4 million person (or 6%) increase in the labour force is a problem, unless the economy is growing at 10% minimum”.
But population growth can hardly be a problem if Nigeria’s resources are being managed properly. Legislators, for instance, still collect ridiculously high wages compared to members of the civil service.
If there was sufficient infrastructure in education, health, power and roads around the country, would this population not be advantageous for creating products and services that grow the economy?

Like the budget, labour force reports always stir conversations on what governments are doing wrong or right. It is perhaps good that NBS has come out with its report just as President Buhari’s optimistic pre-election budget proposal surfaces. Analysis of the ambitions in latter in the face of the unpalatable realities of the former will serve as good fodder for questioning candidates in the coming weeks.

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