Some developed economies including Canada, Germany and Australia have expanded their talent pool by including vocational and technical skills to service their industries, creating an opportunity for Nigerian workers in the informal sector.
Experts in human development and resources say the demand for blue-collar skills from these countries may make them more attractive to Nigerians and encourage more people to acquire such skills that are considered less important.
“It improves the perception of the informal sector as people, especially the younger ones, may aspire to create careers towards that line of work. More importantly, it provides some significant level of dignity and validation to the sector,” Olamide Adeyeye, a Lagos-based human development researcher, said.
He said part of the reasons why tech is attractive today is because it is internationally marketable and that the demand for vocational and technical skills creates opportunities for the vulnerable people who also want to emigrate.
“For Nigeria, it becomes an alternative employment pathway or an additional one which has a huge impact on the country’s unemployment rate and remittance inflows,” he added.
In June 2023, the German parliament approved a new immigration law to attract skilled workers from the non-European Union countries with non-academic training to address labour market gaps in the country.
The law, which will take effect in November 2023, March 2024 and June 2024, includes a points-based system that lowers entry hurdles for applicants according to their professional qualifications, age and language skills.
Two months later, Canada unveiled an immigration pathway for carpenters, plumbers and welders from other countries including Nigeria.
Then in September, the Australian government announced a Construction Visa Subsidy Program, which offers financial incentives of up to 10,000 Australian dollars to encourage people from other nations to relocate.
“Our system is set up in a way that people don’t invest in the informal sector,” said Ogugua Belonwu, founder and chief executive officer at MyJobMag. “For it to make sense, the country or organisations should start training people in the sector, and it has to be in significant numbers to make an impact.”
Adeyeye said that “we are in a talent industrial revolution era where talents are becoming the products, not necessarily the skills, and that Africa is a fertile ground for the products”.
“But because of our mindset, the important areas where we should be focused are considered less. Nigeria should tap into the opportunity fast before the timeline for the demand of the informal skills elapses, making them irrelevant,” he said.
Vocational and technical education is a system of learning that leads to the acquisition of practical and applied skills as well as basic scientific knowledge.
Technical education cover courses such as metalworks technical education, automobile technical education, building technology education, woodworks technology education, and electrical/electronic technical education.
The vocational ones include home economics, agricultural science education, fine and applied arts education, cosmetology, computer techniques, sewing, and tie and dye.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the fundamental purpose of technical and vocational education is to equip people with skills that can broaden their opportunities in life and help them to play an important role in preparing them for the world of work and to provide them with the skills necessary for self-employment.
In 2019, the Nigerian government said it was reviving the Technical Teacher Training Programme, an initiative set up in the 1970s. Adamu Adamu, former minister of education, said the programme aimed to produce more teachers for technical and vocational education in basic and post basic schools across the country.
“Nigeria has not woken up in appreciating, accepting or embracing informal jobs because it is seen as a poor man’s job. Until the sector is glamorise, people will not appreciate its value,” said Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting.
According to her, vocational skills are appreciated and respected in other countries because of the high wages compared to Nigeria. “Until that mindset changes, we will not embrace those skills.”
Data from the National Bureau of statistics (NBS) show that informal employment among employed Nigerians was 92.6 percent in the first quarter of 2023, down from 93.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.
“In Q4, 93.5 percent of employed Nigerians were engaged in informal employment including agriculture, while 90.9 percent in informal employment excluding agriculture,” the NBS said.
Israel Odubola, a Lagos-based research economist, noted that the demand for informal skills will spotlight the importance of technical and vocational skills that have long been undermined in Nigeria.
“It will also have a substantial impact on unemployment by reducing the pressure or rate at which people look for jobs because they will be encouraged to become job creators not seekers,” he said.
Higher education and work are the major principal conduits of permanent emigration. 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.
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.
“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 encouraging for any Nigerian, making them leave despite the high cost of migrating.
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.