Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose further at the end of 2020. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rate in Nigeria increased from 27.1 percent in Q2 2020 to 33.3 percent in Q4 2020. The number of active working population in December 2020, that is, those within the age bracket of 15-64 years was 122.05 million Nigerians. In June 2020, the number of active working age Nigerians was 116.87 million. In other words, Nigerians within the working age group increased by 4.3 percent during the reference period.
On the other hand, the labour force declined. This is surprising because being a subset of the active working age population, the labour force during the period should have mirrored the active working group, but that was not the case. In actual fact, the Nigerian labour force fell by 13.2 percent to 69.7 million individuals in Q4 2020 as against 80.3 million in Q2 2020. That means, in the second half of 2020, 10.6 million Nigerians decided to take themselves out of the labour market.
In terms of age distribution, 9.85 million Nigerians within the labour force were aged 15-24 years. Out of this number, 5.3 million are unemployed, representing an unemployment rate of 53.4 percent. Only 2.64 million Nigerians within this age bracket are fully employed.
The largest concentration of the nation’s labour force is within the 25-34 age-group which has 20.09 million Nigerians that are able and willing to work. From this group, 7.46 million are unemployed as only 8.28 million are gainfully employed. The unemployment rate of this age group is 37.2 percent.
There are 19.27 million Nigerians within the age group 35-44 years, out of which 9.49 million are fully employed while 5.23 million others are unemployed. This group’s unemployment rate is 27.2 percent.
The unemployment rate of the age-group 45-54 years is 25.4 percent. With 13.3 million as labour force, 6.68 million are employed while 3.38 million are unemployed. The last segment of the labour force is the age-group 55-64 years. In this group are 7.16 million Nigerians from which 3.47 million are employed while 1.85 million are unemployed.
When the unemployment data was analysed in terms of certificates of Nigerians in labour force, 20.6 million Nigerians within the labour force have no educational qualifications. That is 30 percent of the country’s labour force. In other words, out of every 10 Nigerians within the labour force, 3 did not go to school.
Further, 9.24 million Nigerians within the labour force have first school leaving certificates as their highest educational qualification. The implication is that there are 3.35 million Nigerians within the labour force who have junior secondary school certificates as their highest educational qualification.
Those with senior secondary school certificates made up the modal group. This group has 22.03 million Nigerians as its members, representing 32 percent of the nation’s labour force.
Cumulatively, 55.84 million Nigerians are within the nation’s labour force who did not go to school at all and those who at most are having senior secondary school certificates as their highest educational attainment. That means the proportion of Nigerians with senior school certificates and below within the labour force is 80 percent.
“When considered by educational status, those reporting A ‘levels as their highest qualification had the highest rate of unemployment with 50.7%, followed by those with first degree/HND at 40.1%. Those with doctorate degrees as their highest qualifications reported the lowest rate of unemployment, 16.9% during the reference period”, NBS said.
There are 39.52 million men within the labour force out of which 18.33 million are employed while 12.6 million are unemployed, implying that the segment’s unemployment rate is 31.8 percent.
On the contrary, 30.15 million women are in Nigeria’s labour force. The NBS data shows that out of this number 12.24 million women are employed while 10.61 million are unemployed, with a group unemployment rate of 35.2 percent.
Sixty-two (62%) percent of Nigeria’s labour force, or 43.22 million Nigerians, live in the rural areas. With an unemployment rate of 34.5 percent, only 16.68 million Nigerians in the rural areas are gainfully employed while 14.9 million are unemployed.
The rural areas of the nation are where agricultural activities take place. If unemployment is very high there, as it is now, it simply means the agricultural potential is not being tapped to the fullest. In 2019 when Nigeria’s real GDP growth rate was 2.27 percent, the agric sector grew by 2.36 percent. In 2020 when Nigeria’s real GDP growth rate was -1.92 percent, the nation’s agric sector grew by 2.17 percent. Agric sectoral contributions to GDP were 26.09 percent and 26.95 percent in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Other factors that could have contributed to the rising rural unemployment rate are insurgency, cattle rustling and banditry. In Borno State, quite a number of farmers were killed by Boko Haram in 2020. In one fell swoop, 43 farmers were killed in a day by insurgents. In the North West, farmers in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Sokoto could not farm as before due to attacks on their persons and properties. Same trend is happening in South West and South-South. These indicate that to tap agricultural potential in the country towards reducing rural unemployment, security must be urgently addressed.
Unemployment rate in the urban area is 31.3 percent. With 26.46 million Nigerians within the labour force residing in the cities, only 13.89 million are employed while 8.28 million are unemployed.
The state-wise unemployment data shows where there are real socio-economic challenges. Imo, Adamawa, Cross River, Yobe and Akwa Ibom states have the highest unemployment rates in the country. Imo State’s unemployment rate is at 56.64 percent. Adamawa State’s unemployment rate is at 54.89 percent; Cross River, 53.65 percent; Yobe, 52.57 percent, while Akwa Ibom is at 51 percent.
On the other hand, Ogun, Sokoto, Zamfara, Benue and Osun have the least unemployment rates in the country. Ogun State’s unemployment rate is at 16.36 percent. Sokoto’s rate is at 14.48 percent; Zamfara, 12.99 percent; Benue, 11.98 percent, while Osun is at 11.65 percent.
By international comparison, only two countries of the world have unemployment rates higher than Nigeria’s. These are Bosnia and Herzegovina, 33.7 percent and Namibia, 33.4 percent.
The countries with the least unemployment rates in the world are Niger Republic, 0.3 percent; Belarus, 0.2 percent and Qatar, 0.1 percent.