• Friday, June 14, 2024
businessday logo


NBS unemployment data ignores reality

Nigeria’s unemployment figure seen dropping on NBS’ new methodology

From hotels and schools to the navy and police force, Temisan Akinbobola has looked for a job just about everywhere since she finished her studies five years ago, but she is still unemployed.

“Sometimes they tell me the course I studied doesn’t relate to the job I’m applying for; sometimes they tell me I don’t have experience. The basic truth is there are no jobs,” Akinbobola, 28, who studied sociology, said from her home in the capital, Abuja on Monday.

After a two-year delay, the National Bureau of Statistics put the country’s unemployment rate at 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2023, down from 33.1 percent for Q4 2020 reported in March 2021.

“Where are the jobs that reduced the unemployment rate because we can’t find anything?” Akinbobola asked.

Favour Obi graduated in 2016 with a second-class upper degree in biomedical sciences, with hope for a career in medical research.

After scouting job sites and going around Lagos Island to submit CVs at different destinations, the 27-year-old recounted how she gradually let the hope drift away. “I knew it would be hard to find a job but at the same time, I never anticipated it could be this tough,” she said.

Read also: Unemployment: NBS shouldn’t ruin its reputation with questionable data

Her current job for the past three and a half years pays N60,000 a month, just above Nigeria’s minimum wage and barely enough to live on. It was initially meant to be temporary.

“But it’s been years now and I’m still here. There are so many people I know in a similar position,” she said, describing friends around her age, who were well-qualified yet grappling with how to do more than just survive.

“The talk of reduced unemployment is a mirage; the economy is struggling,” Obi said.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people, has faced high unemployment for decades as rapid population growth outpaced economic growth.

Record debt, sluggish growth and poor infrastructure have held back the distribution of wealth in Africa’s biggest economy where tens of millions are employed in the largely unregulated informal sectors.

BusinessDay’s findings showed the one question many people asked was how the unemployment rate dropped from 33 percent to 4.1 percent in about three years.

“When we understand that the primary purpose of data is not politics or ego boosting/chest-thumping but evidence-based policy and to understand the problems and proffer solutions and then monitor success of those policies, we will get it. But apparently, we are not ready,” Yemi Kale, former CEO of NBS and statistician-general, said on X (formerly Twitter).

He added: “So much for the informal sector workers were never captured lie. Lying unintelligently with statistics. All that changed is allowable hours. Informal workers often tend to even work longer hours than formal workers. They are usually up before and often close after we formal sector people are home.

“Political thinking will make one push for international standards today and against it tomorrow depending on the agenda.

Tommy Okon, the deputy president of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, said: “We need to learn how they generate their data, especially in Nigeria where we have a shortage of data.

Read also:Labour, Employers rage over NBS unemployment report, say it’s fake

“Manufacturing companies are not employing because they are struggling to stay afloat; Governments should stop covering up and cooking up data for whatever reason. It is known that the country’s unemployment situation is increasing daily, and we cannot pretend about it.”

Peter Adeyemi, the general secretary of Non-Academic Staff Union of Nigeria, said: “I am one of those who rely on NBS for accurate data, but I strongly doubt this latest report that unemployment has reduced by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2023.”

“There is practically nothing to support this position. Instead, the rate of unemployment has increased,” he added.

In arriving at the new figure, the NBS said the old methodology defines the working-age population as those within the age bracket of 15-64 years and considers working between 20 and 39 hours as underemployed and those working between one and 19 hours as unemployed was wrong.

The NBS further highlighted that while the unemployment rate is 4.1 percent, underemployment is 12.2 percent. It puts youth underemployment at 6.9 percent and youth unemployment at 18.1 percent.