There are indications that the National bureau of statistics will unveil a revised methodology for computing unemployment statistics in Nigeria this week. This is off the back of announcements made by the Statistician General for the Federation and Chief Executive of the NBS, Dr Yemi Kale, last year, in Abuja while speaking at a workshop. Kale, had at the event inaugurated a committee to review the methodology, which according to him, would deliberate on the current definition of unemployment as applied by NBS as well as propose a most suitable definition for the Nigerian environment, while still satisfying international best practice.
However, unconfirmed reports suggest that with the reviewed methodology, Nigeria’s official unemployment rate will be significantly reduced down from the 23.9% it currently is. The review was triggered as a result of the 40-hour a week benchmark currently being used by the NBS which many stakeholders and experts have clamoured was no longer adequate, as it negates the definition of International Labour Organisation and regards all persons working under 40 hours a week as unemployed. The ILO defines employment as persons in the labour force who have been employed for at least one hour in a week. According to Dr. Kale, if Nigeria were to strictly apply the 1 hour a week ILO definition for employment, the unemployment rate in Nigeria would be in the region of 2 to 3%. However, the current definition of unemployment by the NBS, puts Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 23.9%, but even this presents challenges; as if you work for 39 hours a week, you will be classified as unemployed which is also inadequate.
Unconfirmed reports have it that the committee inaugurated by the NBS, which is made up of stakeholders including international organisations, NGOS, National Labour Conference, members of the Guild of editors, Nigerian professors, amongst others have completed their review and set a new hour benchmark of 20 hours a week. The implications of this is that the official rate of unemployment is likely to reduce given that persons working 35 hours, which were previously classified as unemployed will now be class as employed based on the new benchmark. A recent report published by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the No Ceilings initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which set out to gather data and analyze the gains made for women and girls over the last two decades, as well as the gaps that remain; discovered that a woman in Nigeria is 4 times as likely to be an entrepreneur than a woman in the U.S; with Nigeria topping the list of 23 countries in the report, as the most likely to take up entrepreneurship.
The realities on ground are that the average Nigerian is entrepreneurial by nature and against popular belief that a large number of Nigerians are unemployed, facts from the World Bank’s ‘Nigeria Economic Report’ reveals that the country’s employment challenge lays more in line with underemployment than unemployment. According to World Bank’s Acting Country Manager, Mr. John Litwack, a large number of Nigerians are engaged in low productivity and low paying jobs as most Nigerians cannot afford not to work, hence the main challenge for Nigeria is underemployment.