• Friday, December 08, 2023
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Nigeria’s unemployment rate plunges to 4.1%

Weak economic growth

Nigeria’s unemployment has dropped from 33.3 percent in 2020 to 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2023, and 5.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022.

The 2020 figures and the current one were calculated using different methodologies, says the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), after a two-year hiatus after a two-year hiatus.

Read also: Nigeria’s unemployment figure seen dropping on NBS’ new methodology

The nation’s unemployment rate which is an outcome of the labour force survey (LFS) conducted in Nigeria, is coming two years after the last official data of 33.3 percent for the fourth quarter of 2020 which was released in March 2021.

The Statistician-General of the Federation, Adeyemi Adeniran, who commented on the labour force survey report, however, said the drop is basically due to a new methodology adopted by the National Bureau of Statistics in conducting the survey, and not necessarily government performance.

Read also: NBS unemployment report faces further delay after two-year hiatus

The LFS is quarterly survey designed with the objective to produce official national statistics on the labour force, employment and unemployment for monitoring and planning purposes.

The new methodology for the Nigeria Labour Force Survey brings our Labour Force Statistics in line with international standards and best practices

However Nigeria has failed to ensure publication of the report as at when due, as Businessday findings showed that no data was published for the four quarters of 2021 as well as the first three quarters of 2022.


The statistician general clarified that there is no real basis to compare the data from two years ago when the report was last released to the present figures.

“NBS has not said that unemployment rate in Nigeria has “reduced from the 33.3% to whatever the figure it is now, therefore government should go to sleep” No, that is not what we have said,” the Statistician General strongly noted in his fairly long keynote speech.

According to him, “The figures today are not based on any performance of any sort, but strictly, and I repeat, strictly on the change in methodology….this is based on the new ILO standard, which Nigeria is part and parcel of, as a country.

“As a matter of fact, the current Chair of the ILO Governing Board is Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, H.E, Ambassador Abiodun Richards Adelaja, so this we cannot continue to be at odds with the ILO standard…we have adopted the ILO standard methodology, which I believe, we have shown enough justification for, and as a result, the figures have changed, and both the new and old are not comparable.

Also he noted that the NLFS is a survey for measuring whether people are engaged or not, the type of that engagement, and the nature of it, be it for pay, profit, own consumption or for free.

“This is why the concept of decent work has become much more pronounced in recent times, as the clamour for better working conditions increase, and rightly so. The measure of the quality of a person’s life is not done through the NLFS, there are other surveys that are designed for that purpose, such as the Nigeria Living Standard Survey (NLSS), Food and Nutrition Survey, or other household Consumption and Expenditure surveys which deal with welfare and living conditions,” he said.

“Waged employment, which is very often what people confuse for employment, disregarding self-employment, is only 11.8%, meaning that most Nigerians are self-employed, do we then classify the self-employed as unemployed? This cannot be so, hence attention should shift to the quality of work people do, as that appears to be the real issue.”

Reeling out the real outcomes of the survey, Adeniran explained that “the findings reveal that about three quarters of Nigerians in the working age population, 73.6% in Q4 2022 and 76.7% in Q1, 2023 were engaged in some form of work for pay or profit during quarters under review.

He noted that this workforce is composed of individuals engaged in various types of work, including formal and informal employment. A further 4.96% were engaged in subsistence agriculture in the fourth quarter of 2022, while 3.56% of the working age population were engaged in subsistence agriculture in the first quarter of 2023.
He noted that this workforce is composed of individuals engaged in various types of work, including formal and informal employment. A further 4.96% were engaged in subsistence agriculture in the fourth quarter of 2022, while 3.56% of the working age population were engaged in subsistence agriculture in the first quarter of 2023.

The results also indicates a scarcity of Wage-employment, as the share of those employed in Wage-employment during the reference quarters was 13.4 percent in Q4 2022 and 11.8 percent in Q1 2023.

This, he said means that a lot more Nigerians operate their own businesses or engage in agriculture and that this figure was 73.1% in the fourth quarter of 2022, and 75.4% in the first quarter of 2023. The high share of self-employed persons amongst the employed shows that most Nigerians struggle to find wage employment, which is most desirable by Nigerians.

Furthermore, the share of the working age population in Nigeria that are not working was 21.4% in the fourth quarter of 2023 and 19.8% in the first quarter of 2023.

According to him, not working is a combination of those within the working age population who are unemployed and not in labour force, such as students, housewives and those not available and searching for work, hence the not working rate should not be taken as the unemployment rate.

He quite acknowledged that Unemployment which is a challenge faced by countries across the globe, remains so in Nigeria.

In his words, “Using the new ILO definition, the survey shows that the unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2022 stood at 5.3% and 4.1% for the first quarter of 2023.

“This figure aligns perfectly with neighbouring countries around Nigeria. Ghana (3.9%), Niger (0.5%), Chad (1.4%), Cameroon (4.0), Togo (4.1%), Benin Republic (1.7%) amongst others.

“Unemployment amongst those with post-secondary education was highest, at 9.1% in the fourth quarter of 2022. This figure is almost double the headline unemployment rate for that quarter and highlights the challenging problem of graduate unemployment, were individuals, despite their education, struggle to secure employment.

Underemployment is also a more significant issue for Nigerians, whereby persons engaged in one activity or the other yet indicate interest and availability to take on more work, due to inadequacy of the jobs they are engaged in at the time.

Findings from the survey estimate the underemployment rate to be 13.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022, and 21.2% in the first quarter of 2023.

“This indicates that, though persons are engaged, the engagement is not sufficient for them, and they would like to work additional hours of work,” he stated.

The survey also collects information on informality of employment. Nigeria has a large informal sector, however, the number of persons engaged in informal employment is largely blurred.

“Using the ILO definition, the survey estimates that 93.5% of employed person were engaged informally in the fourth quarter of 2022, while 92.6% of employed persons in the first quarter of 2023 were also engaged informally.

For him, this is very interesting and useful information for government, particularly at this time when discussions are ongoing on palliative measures to be taken following the removal of petrol subsidies.

In his remarks, the world bank country director, Shubham Chaudhuri noted the importance of having a robust, regular national data such as the Labour force survey report, sating that reliable data gives the government to knowledge about the welfare of the nation as well as ensures the right intervention and programs needed to address challenges.

Noting that over 130 million Nigerians were multidimensionally poor, Chaudhuri stated the importance of the report cannot be overemphasised as necessary for job creation and poverty reduction.

For the permanent secretary, Ministry of budget and economic planning, Nebeolisa Anako, the achievement is consistent with the mandate the present administration given the importance of data. “We place more emphasis on reliable data and the ministry will continue to provide support to the bureau to ensure availability of reliable data.

Hence the importance of this report is that it shows the economy realities, as labour force report is a key indices in the economy.

For the Minister, budget and economic planning, Abubakar Bagudu, data is vital to nation and planning building.

He said, “the president believes in reliable data for planning and will support anything that will lead to production of appropriate data.

“To create jobs for youths, we need this kind of data, a lot needs to be done to address the high rate of unemployment in the country. The President is desirous of reducing unemployment.

“Nigeria is one of the countries with absorptive capacity, so what we need is to provide better environment and more incentives.”


Analysts who spoke with Businessday, said that the delays showed government lack of concern for human development amidst high rate of poverty in the country.

Paul Inyang, Abuja based economic analyst, decried that most government initiatives and interventions are often designed without acurate data and implemented based on assumptions.

For him, no country can have a meaningful development in the absence of accurate and current.

“If the government is concerned about the well being of its citizens, they will be expectant to know these figures because it shows the welfare of the citizens.

“How do we ensure meaningful interventions and programs if we do not have accurate data, this only happens in Nigeria where people come into government to enrich themselves.

“Even when these data are finally released, some do not reflect the realities of happenings in the country,” he said.