Nigeria’s Unemployment Rate: Beyond Statistics

According to a statistical projection provided by Statista, an organization that is committed to the provision of market and consumer data, in November 2020 on unemployment rate in 2021, “The unemployment rate in Nigeria is estimated to reach 31.4 percent this year. This figure is projected to increase further in 2022”.

In a similar vein, albeit, from a retrospective perspective, according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020, in its official report on unemployment which was released in August last year. When it was released then, watchers of the economy and experts alike had it that the report comes several quarters after the statistics bureau released its last report in 2018, and added that the new rate was an increase from 23.1% unemployed in the third quarter of 2018.

As Statisticians recently analysed using the 2018 report, Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018. Still following the same trend the statistics bureau said the economically active or working-age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased from 111.1 million in Q3 2017 to 115.5million in Q3 2018, and that the Nigerian economy has been hit by the impact of the coronavirus, amid depleting oil revenues.

Ostensibly being cautious of the alarming trend, expertshave warned that the economic downturn exacerbated by the pandemic would affect employment generation as companies will no doubt cut cost and lay off workers to stay afloat. The highlights of the Report showed that the number of persons in the economically active or working-age population (15 – 64 years of age) during the reference period of the survey was 116,871,186. This is 1.2% higher than the figure recorded in the third quarter of 2018, which was 115,492,969.

The number of persons in the labour force (that is, people within ages 15 -64, who are able and willing to work) was estimated to be 80,291,894, a figure of 11.3% less than the number persons in Q3, 2018.

Against the foregoing statistical background, it is germane to make reference to Donald Rumsfeld’s quote about statistics that goes thus, “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns- the ones we don't know we don't know.”

The reason for citing the foregoing pessimistic quote in this context cannot be farfetched as not few Nigerians; both those that are enlightened about statistics and the unenlightened are ready to opine that data been made available to the public on unemployment situation in the country belies the grim reality of the job market.

Mr. Kennedy Ekeanyanwu, an Insurance marketer, who this writer engaged in a parley before commencing the writing of this article said, “This is a country where hundreds of jobseekers apply for a job position whenever such position is declared vacant through advertisement by any given company; A country where the jobless can be seen loitering around the corner at every hour of the day on every street in every city, and where graduates with enviable results are known to stoop low, and apply for menial jobs”.

To buttress Ekeanyanwu’s view, it suffices to say that Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry in 2013 when Dangote Group announced vacant positions for interested Truck Drivers who must be graduates. At the time the number of applications started pouring in from applicants that possess higher degrees that cut across first degree, masters and Ph.Ds. not few Nigerians were dumbfounded as the exercise revealed an ugly unemployment statistics that showed a staggering figure that stood at 13,000. Of the 13,000 applications received by the Dangote Group for the Graduate Executive Truck Driver, there were six Ph.Ds., 704 Masters and over 8,460 Bachelor degree holders. Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman of Dangote Group, while speaking during the mentorship meeting of the World Bank Youth Forum, said that the company only needed 100 drivers, but received the overwhelming applications. According to Dangote, most of the applicants were from reputable universities and had the needed quality. He said: “All these things are verifiable, and they all graduated from reputable institutions which is satisfactory; and our plan is to eventually make them self-dependent.

He said, “Despite the fact that the drivers get trip allowances on each trip along with their salaries, the arrangement is that they will own the trucks at no interests or repayments after they must have reached 300,000 kilometres, which is about 140 trips from Lagos to Kano and a hard working driver can complete in two years, while lazy ones can take maximum of four years.”

In as much as this writer cannot in any way deny the fact that statistics is important as it is the science of learning from data, and which helps government to accurately initiate plans and programmes and execute projects given birth to by such initiatives and programmes, I will equally not deny the fact that the government need to go beyond statistics and provide jobs for jobseekers The reason for the foregoing cannot be farfetched as the number of unemployed youths on the streets, even some unemployed elderly fathers and mothers who are middle-aged that are not tired to be engaged in paid employment far outnumbered what statistics says.

In a similar vein, Nigerians will not easily forget in 2014 when, at least seven people were killed, and dozens more injured in Nigeria's capital Abuja after thousands of panicked job-seekers stampeded during a government recruitment drive at the national stadium. Survivors toldAFP that thousands had gathered to apply for jobs with the immigration department in the Abuja stadium. One witness said the stampede broke out as applicants surged towards a central stage. They said only one entrance to the 60,000-capacity stadium was open.

More six years down the line since the gory incident, analysts believe that the three tiers of government have not done enough to create employment or create enabling environment for the organised private sector to employ more Nigerians. In a growing economy, it is rather shocking that Ph.D and Master’s degree holders are seeking placement as drivers. Martin Onyilokwu of Media Development Initiative at the time Nigerians were rudely shocked with the reality believed that the revelation was a wakeup call for government to go beyond rhetoric and start the implementation of credible programmes to improve the living condition of Nigerians. He said: “It is no longer enough to claim that the economy is growing by this or that per cent. The truth of the matter is that Nigeria is not witnessing appreciable development. We have a situation where the living standard of the people is at an all-time low as exemplified by insecurity, poverty, unemployment, massive corruption, executive and legislative recklessness. There is a need for government to wake up to its responsibility

At this juncture, given the fact that Nigeria’s unemployment rate has more than tripled in the last six years, and that it will continue to get worse if not nipped in the bud, I am urging the government to open all avenues to employment opportunities across the 774 local governments in the country. I am not talking about gutter-cleaning jobs that would be created out of political expediency and to score cheap political point. I am talking about jobs that can put food on the table and enhance the dignity of those that would be employed to perform such jobs. In as much as there is growing unemployment in the country, graduates should be for once respected.

Again, the government should eschew the line of thinking that unemployment is peculiar to the youths only. It is absolutely not true! There are many men and women in their middle age who cannot afford to pay their house rents, pay their children school fees and even provide for the family. To have a bird’s eye view of the foregoing opinion, visit any second hand goods market where furniture, electronics and household items are sold, and see how some Nigerians are selling their properties just to survive. Again, the issue of underemployment should equally be looked into. The reason for this cannot be farfetched as many Nigerians that are counted as workers by Statisticians are not in the real sense of the word working as most of them are under-employed, and barely able to make end meets. This category of workers spend almost 80% of their monthly salary on transport alone.

Disclaimer: "The views expressed on this site are those of the contributors or columnists, and do not necessarily reflect TheNigerianVoice’s position. TheNigerianVoice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements in the contributions or columns here."

Articles by Isaac Asabor