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Nigeria’s unemployment outlook is alarming

Oluseun Akinrinoye



The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently released Unemployment and Underemployment report for Quarter 1 (Q1) to Quarter 3 (Q3) 2017. The analysis and the employment figures were mind-blowing. The NBS is doing its best to ensure the policymakers have data that will guide in policy making and I must give kudos to Yemi Kale and his team at NBS for a job well done.

The reports showed a reason for worry for the government and for anyone that cares about the present and future of Nigerian youths. The good part of the report is that it includes underemployment as well, considering that some people are actually employed like they are unemployed. Please see my brief analysis in the paragraphs below.

Labour Force Population

This is described as people within the ages 15-64 who are willing and able to work . The report showed an increase in Nigeria’s working population from 81.2m in Q4 2016 to 82.6m in Q1 and a further increase to 83.9 million people in Q2. This means about 2.7m people were added to the labour force population in the first half of the year. The figure further increased by additional 1.2m to 85.1m in Q3. If the same percentage increase and absolute figures are maintained for the whole year, it is expected that the country will add about 5.3 million people to her labour force in 2017. The big question is, how many fresh jobs have been created in 2017?

Unemployment & Underemployment

According to NBS, unemployment is described as “the proportion of those in the labor force (not in the entire economic active population, nor the entire Nigerian population) who were actively looking for work but could not find work for at least 20 hours during the reference period to the total currently active (labor force) population. Accordingly, you are unemployed if you did absolutely nothing at all or did something but for less than 20 hours during the reference week”.

In addition, according to NBS, “underemployment occurs if you work less than full time hours, which is 40 hours, but work at least 20 hours on average a week and /or if you work full time but are engaged in an activity that underutilizes your skills, time and educational qualifications.”. I believe if we look at it critically, most people who think they are employed are actually underemployed considering the latter part of the definition.

Analysing the figures

The total number of people in full-time employment (at least 40 hours a week) declined from 53.6 million in Q1 2017 to 52.7 million in Q2 2017 and a further decrease to 51.1 million in Q3 2017. This means about 2.5 million people were out of jobs during this period, although some of them could have opted to work lesser hours voluntarily, left employment for education purposes or people that decided to leave work due to family urgency needs.

Also, the unemployment population increased from 11.2 million in Q1 2017 to 16 million in Q3 2017 representing an increase by 4.8 million people. This leads the unemployment rate to increase from 13.9% in Q1 2017 to 18.8% in Q3.

For underemployment, there were 15.9 million people in Q1 2017 and this increased to a whopping 18 million in Q3 2017. This represents a 19.7% underemployment rate in Q1 which increased to 21.2% in Q3 2017.

As a whole

When analysed together, the number of people either unemployed or underemployed as at Q1 2017 was 27.1 million and this number increased to a staggering 34 million people as at Q3 2017. As a percentage, about 33.6% people were either unemployed or underemployed in Q1 of 2017 and that increased to 40% in Q3 2017. That should be a big headache for the policy makers and indeed a bomb waiting to explode for the country if nothing is done to urgently reduce the numbers.

As scary as the above figures look, I personally do not expect the government to be at the forefront of creating jobs and reducing unemployment and underemployment. However, it is expected that the Federal and State Governments across the Federation will create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and create jobs.

What is expected of the government is to fix power and infrastructures so that small and medium businesses can thrive, factories and manufacturing companies can grow and Nigeria can be on the path to industrialisation. As we expect the report for Q4 2017, we hope the Government and policy makers are already at work, and if they are not, they should get to work

The full report by NBS can be read here Q1-Q3 Unemployment report

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