The global race for talent looks set to ramp up the exodus of Nigerian professionals as Canada and Germany recently eased their immigration laws to lure in more skilled workers from other countries.
As their aging population and low fertility rates continue to shrink their workforce, a number of developed countries are turning to largely populated countries for more young professionals in a move to help businesses and industries battling widespread staff shortages.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populated nation has in recent years seen a mass exodus of talent, popularly called ‘japa’ (a Yoruba word for “run quickly”), which has led to the dearth of skilled workers in the health sector.
“The ‘japa’ wave will increase because these countries are restrategising and diversifying their efforts into bringing more people to fill in the employment gaps that have been caused by the Great Resignation in Europe, flexible working, COVID-19 and every other economic strain,” Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, said.
She said the countries are aware that they can get cheaper labour from Africa, especially Nigeria.
“A lot of the roles that they are recruiting for are more vocational ones. So, they believe Nigerians will be able to fill the roles and contribute to their Gross Domestic Product,” she added.
Since 2020, Germany’s Skilled Immigration Act has made migration to the country easier for skilled workers, especially from non-European countries. Its shortage of skilled workers created a need for the Act.
On June 23, 2023, the German parliament passed an immigration law to encourage more people from outside the European Union to come to Germany for work.
A major innovation under the law is its new opportunity card and its associated points system, which allows foreigners who do not yet have a job lined up to come to the county for a year to find employment.
A few days later, Canada announced its first-ever immigration tech talent strategy to create new job opportunities for other countries.
Last Wednesday, the country invited 500 healthcare workers from other countries under the new Express Entry (EE) category-based selection draws, and it hopes to get 1,500 more in July.
The country revealed 24 occupations under the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields to qualify for its EE draw on July 5 (today).
Last year, the Canadian government unveiled an aggressive plan to take in 500,000 immigrants yearly by 2025, with almost 1.5 million new immigrants coming to the country over the next three years.
Data from the population estimates and projections data from US Census Bureau International Data Base, a global demographic product, show that the estimated working age (15-64) population of Germany would decline by 17 percent to 44.3 million by 2050 from 53.4 million in 2022.
Canada’s working-age population is projected to rise marginally by 4.9 percent to 25.8 million by 2050, while that of Nigeria will double by 107.4 percent to 259.9 million.
Kemi Ogunkoya, a Lagos-based leadership development strategist, said the developed economies are seeking talent not for their love for Africans but for the love of skills that will take them through to the future.
“By 2050, Africa will have the youngest population in the world. So, how best to leverage on that, other than to prepare themselves ahead of their future,” she added.
According to Ogunkoya, the ‘japa’ wave will continue to widen the talent shortages, and even the quality of talent that is left will be a problem for companies.
“So it is heavily dependent on the policies of the government. They have to be more proactive by working on a strategic national plan to develop our human capital and improve our economy over the next five or 10 years, otherwise, organisations will be in a losing battle,” she added.
Higher education and work are the major principal conduits of permanent emigration. But Nigeria’s current economic challenges such as high inflation, unemployment and fragile economic growth as well as insecurity are the major reasons why many of its citizens are leaving for greener pastures, experts say.
The country’s inflation quickened to a 17-year high at 22.41 percent in May 2023 and the unemployment rate quadrupled to 33.3 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2020 from 8.2 percent in Q2 2015, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
This means that the number of people without jobs rose by 280.3 percent to 23.2 million from 6.1 million, throwing millions of people into poverty.
Last year, the NBS put the number of Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty at 133 million, compared to 82.9 million considered poor in 2019 by national standards.
The NBS data also show that the labour force population between the ages of 15 and 64 reduced to 69.9 million in Q4 2020 from 74 million in Q2 2015.
Compared to other age groups, unemployment is the highest among those within the country’s younger population aged 15-34, which accounts for over 65 percent of its more than 200 million people.
The number of unemployed young persons surged by 220 percent to 12.8 million in Q4 2020 from 4.0 million in Q2 2015. Other age groups like those between 35 and 44 rose by 434.4 percent to 5.3 million, 45-54 increased by 410.7 percent to 3.3 million, and 55-64 rose by 345.1 percent to 1.9 million.
The unemployment numbers for 2021 and 2022 are yet to be released, with the Presidential Economic Advisory Committee projecting 40 percent for 2021, while KPMG Nigeria forecast 37.7 percent for 2022.
“We have been suffering years and decades of clear economic mismanagement that has resulted in a loss of faith by the Nigerian populace,” Abiodun Keripe, managing director of Afrinvest Consulting Limited, said.
He said the unemployment and inflation statistics, which have worsened significantly over the last eight years, are not in any way enticing and encouraging for any Nigerian, making them leave despite the high cost of migrating.
A recent report by Phillips Consulting Limited showed that more than half of Nigerian highly skilled employees plan to quit their jobs and relocate abroad next year.
The report, which surveyed 1,054 Nigerian adults aged 18 or older between August 24 and September 3, 2022, said 22 percent plan to migrate abroad within the next two-three years, while 26 percent are still determining their plans or have no intention of relocating abroad.
“The finance and insurance, professional services, and IT sectors are expected to be hit the hardest. The migration of skilled workers could significantly impact the performance of these sectors and the overall economy,” it said.
Others are reduced skilled workforce, decreased tax revenue, and the loss of talented and skilled personnel, increased pressure on foreign exchange demand and loss of trade and tourism.
According to the authors of the report, millennials currently make up the most significant portion of the workforce.
“They possess distinct traits, such as being tech-savvy and innovative, that differentiate them from other generations. These qualities can potentially revolutionise and transform organisations and society as a whole,” it said.
A 2022 survey by Jobberman conducted between June and July 2022 showed that 65 percent of 2,228 respondents between the ages of 18-35 years old were without jobs.
“Amplified by the global economic crisis, COVID-19, insecurity, and the current political landscape, Nigeria’s labour force is undergoing significant disruptions at all levels,” it said.
According to the report, while there is a huge exodus of talent from the country, layoffs, retrenchment, and termination of contractual work arrangements are common in many employment sectors.
The number of Nigerians given sponsored study or student visas rose by 768.7 percent to 59,053 in 2022 from 6,798 in 2019, according to the British government.
For work visas, the number grew by 574.8 percent to 13,449 in 2022 from 1,993 in 2019.
The number of new study permits issued by Canada to Nigerians increased by 17.8 percent to 16,195 as of December 31, 2022, the highest on record, from 13,745 in the same period of 2021.
The number of Nigerian permanent residents in Canada surged by 41.9 percent to 22,130 from 15,595 in the previous year, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.