Despite rampant unemployment across the country, the Nigerian government says the proportion of people without jobs has plummeted dramatically from 28 per cent to just 6.4 per cent, meaning France has a higher percentage of unemployed people than Nigeria, and the United States and United Kingdom barely managed to beat Nigeria by a mark.
Unemployment rate in France stands at 10.6 per cent, while the U.S. and U.K. have 5.5 per cent each.
Nigeria’s new rate, unveiled this week by the National Bureau of Statistics as the outcome of a revised methodology for calculating unemployment, has angered many Nigerians.
The Statistician-General of the Federation, Yemi Kale, had announced on Thursday that Nigeria’s unemployment rate, which stood at about 28 per cent by the 4th quarter of 2014, crashed to the new rate.
The revised methodology for computing unemployment statistics reduced Nigeria’s official work hour benchmark from 40 to 20 hours a week, leaving the possibility of categorising millions of underemployed Nigerians “employed”.
Work hours are the average number of hours a person is expected to complete in a week to be considered employed.
Nigerians who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES described the new figure variously as “delusionary”, “politically motivated”, “unserious” and “fallacious”.
Mr. Kale said if his bureau relied on the International Labour Organisation, ILO, which sees the “unemployed” as persons in the labour market who put in less one hour at work per week, Nigeria’s rate would have plunged further, and virtually all Nigerians would be seen as employed.
A revision of the ILO definition to Nigeria’s initial 40 hours per week, Mr. Kale said, resulted in an unemployment rate of 23. 9 percent in 2010, a figure many Nigerians dismissed as false.
But government experts considered that figure inadequate, arguing that persons who put in as much as 39 hours per week cannot be considered unemployed.
The NBS boss noted the difference between unemployed and “not having work”, saying that only those within the working age of 15 and 64 years and looking for work, but cannot find, are considered unemployed.
“When those in the age brackets of 0-15 years and 65 and above are removed, all others in the economically active population who are not working are either not available or willing to work, not unemployed, like student and full-time housewives,” Mr. Kale said.
Outraged Nigerians React
For the Country Director, PLAN International, Hussaini Abdu, the 6.4 per cent rate is far from realistic. He said 34 per cent would be close to the true figure.
“The truth is that the NBS has been under tremendous pressure from the World Bank and the Minister of Finance to review these indices,” Mr. Abdu said. “The review was basically to reduce the negative expression about unemployment, just as they said poverty level was 53 percent.”
Mr. Abdu said unemployment statistics are too serious to be politicised, particularly at a time Nigeria is having a political transition.
“Changing figures on paper does not reduce the number of the unemployed in the job market. This is a very unserious way to deal with a national problem. If we say unemployment is 6.4 per cent in Nigeria, are we saying we are better off than France, UK and U.S. with higher unemployment figures?
“How do we explain to millions of young Nigerians out in the street looking for jobs? Is government telling them that what is their major problem is not too much a problem? Mr. Abdu stated.
A former President-General, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUCN), Peter Esele, was not amused either, as he described the new rate as “fallacious and deceitful”.
“If government’s is to be believed, it should reflect in the amount of tax they are collecting”, the labour leader said. “This is the globally acceptable standard for measuring employment situation in a country.
“If government is saying almost the entire population are employed and it is not reflected in the tax collected, then something is wrong with the government.”
If one considers the U.S., Mr. Esele said, one hour job for a week would be enough for the person to live very well with his earning, pointing out that in Nigeria’s case, one hour’s work is dependent on other people.
“If government is saying the unemployment situation is 6.4 percent, does our standard or quality of living the same as those places they are copying? The figure is a huge fallacy,” he said.
The Chief Executive Global Analytics Consulting Limited, Tope Fasua, who described the 6.4 per cent unemployment figure as delusionary, said the situation is not one that Nigerians would be deceived, as everybody knows the truth.
“We have passed the stage of always wanting to look good. The experience with the Minister of Finance about the economy should be enough lesson for us. We cannot continue to want to look good when we are faced with a serious problem.
“We say Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, and one of the fastest growing in the world. What’s the reality on ground?” Mr. Fasua asked.
He said the country’s assessment of unemployment situation in the country should begin from secondary school, where a greater population of youths in the past used to begin to look for job immediately out of school.
Government should pay special attention to this group of people, as they are ones doing the odd jobs, selling things at bus stops and are easily attracted to crimes as a result of poverty.
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ), Eze Onyeknpere, described the 6.4 per cent figure as unreasonable estimate, which he does not want to waste his time commenting on.
“When we look around and see our brothers, sisters and relations either without jobs, because there is none to look for, or they have been sacked, we don’t know what else one can say about unemployment,” he said.