Labour is as old as time and man on earth, so is the principle that to eat or to survive, we have to labour; nothing falls on your lap without effort. Dignity in labour implies that all jobs are to be respected equally and accorded equal respect without any discrimination based on the type of work it is, as well as promoting honour and integrity of man’s effort in producing a service or product. For this principle to be effective, everyone must adhere to it; employers, employees, bystanders, family, friends, government and stakeholders in society at large. The government must play its role in giving dignity to all sectors through proper legislation and enforcement of worker’s welfare and pay.
In reality, this is far from practiced; dignified labor is mostly associated with white-collar jobs. In Nigeria, certain jobs are viewed as less dignifying and as such, people run away from them so as not to be perceived as unserious or lesser beings. This then leads people to both identify and create avenues or explore other paths, which in most cases are illegal channels and immoral.
With an increasing youth population and few jobs available, youths have been gradually moving towards making wrong career choices, and plagued with negative influences on social media with the growth of internet scamming businesses, known as Yahoo! Yahoo! especially in Nigeria. There is the urgent need to make concerted effort in dignifying the informal sector and directing these youths to take up careers that were ab-initio considered un-dignifying.
An estimated 58 percent of Nigerians engage in the informal sector according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics . Like anything else, it has its good and bad sides; on the one hand, the informal sector allows its participants flexibility than the formal sector does not provide. Especially for women, it gives them the freedom to work and at the same time build their families and marriage, especially for those that are self-employed. At the same time, the services and work they do are not accorded dignity by society and sometimes looked down upon, which should not be the case.
People who fall under the informal sector are oftentimes not legislated for or never taken into more than surface-level consideration when legislation is involved. The enactment of the Employment Compensation Act (2010) saw a blatant overlooking of those who participate in the informal sector. For the most part, people who engage in the formal sector have their employment welfare legislated and taken care of, this in turn, gives it the dignity others do not get.
An act that addresses employment welfare took no steps to address the welfare of those in the informal sector; the wordings of this act would logically be unable to cover the informal sector. Considering the situation in Nigeria, people go the informal route to avoid poverty and most times “live from hand to mouth, knowing this, no special considerations were put in place to tackle this special situation and this contributes to the negative narrative of the informal sector. Even on the matter of national minimum wage, partakers in the informal sector seem not to benefit from it.
The youths are an essential part of any economy or country, it is important that jobs be available for them to foster this idea of dignity in labour or they will attach dignity to other destructive forms of labour. With a high crime rate in Nigeria and perpetuated mostly by people within employable age, which are youths, Nigeria needs to resolve its crime problem by getting its youth population to be gainfully employed both in the formal and the informal sector.
Think of a domino effect concerning dignity ascribed to labour and crime. When the youths see how undignified certain jobs are, they are bound to make more destructive life choices in a bid to move away from those undignified jobs.
Seeing this problem and its magnitude, WODDI has dedicated herself to developing and implementing programs dedicated to providing relevant skill acquisition classes, so that our beneficiaries can convert these learned skills into money-making endeavors and in turn free themselves of poverty and contributing positively to the society.
This change in the world, although a difficult transition, will surely do some good to the society, especially amongst the youths, as non-dignifying work will become attractive and dignifying. Such jobs as photography, makeup artistry, graphic design, content creation and much more, will become distinguished and more people will seek opportunities in these areas rather than crime and other negative vices.
The informal sector contributes about 65 percent to the GDP of the Nigerian economy and creates millions of jobs and as such should be ascribed the much dignity as the formal sector if dignity in labor is to mean anything, especially amongst the youths
This is what we strive to do at WODDI as we continually seek to provide opportunities for the youth population through our designated programs and interventions
NKECHI ROCHAS OKOROACHA