On May 1 every year, the labour day is marked all over the world with fun and fanfare. So as it is done every year, so it was done yesterday being the day for this year’s Workers’ Day celebration. Obviously, Monday 1 2023 marked another important day for workers across the world, including Nigeria. As it is said every year, the day is a time to celebrate the contributions of workers to the development of societies and to reflect on the challenges they face in their daily lives. Thus, from Anambra to Lagos, Borno to Zamfara, all workers in the country rolled out the drums to celebrate their day with marches, drums and fun-fare. But, today, the day after, should give us a cause to really reflect beyond the dance and the music.
Luckily, the theme of this year’s celebration dwelled on workers’ rights and socioeconomic justice. It could be said that the theme was well intentioned especially at a point that one of the major challenges facing workers in Nigeria is the lack of rights and socioeconomic justice. The Nigerian labour market is characterized by informality, low wages, and poor working conditions. Many workers do not have access to social protection or are not covered by labour laws. As a result, they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. To make the matter worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, with many workers losing their jobs or struggling to make ends meet.
Yet. it is tempting to argue that minimum wage has recently been increased and that it should give the workers enough economic muscle to procure their needs. Still, the rising inflation, the skyrocketing prices of food and the poor value of the Naira have conspired to make life more nightmarish for an average Nigerian worker. If low productivity caused by lack of training, ineffective leadership and employees’ dissatisfaction is thrown into the mix, it is easy to conclude that it would be difficult to attain the focus areas of this year’s theme.
However, innovation and enterprise can be used to address these challenges and create a better future for workers in the country. To address these challenges, innovation and enterprise can be used to create new opportunities for workers in Nigeria. For example, digital platforms can be used to connect workers with employers, creating new job opportunities and improving working conditions. These platforms can also be used to provide training and support to workers, helping them to develop new skills, improve their employability and increase their level of productivity.
In addition, social enterprises can be used to create new opportunities for workers in Nigeria. Social enterprises are businesses that have a social mission, such as creating employment opportunities for marginalized groups. These enterprises can provide training and support to workers, helping them to develop new skills and access better job opportunities. They can also create new products and services that address the needs of workers in Nigeria, such as affordable housing or healthcare.
Another way to use innovation and enterprise to achieve workers’ rights and socioeconomic justice in Nigeria is through the use of technology. Technology can be used to create new opportunities for workers, such as remote work or online education. It can also be used to improve working conditions, such as through the use of automation or robotics in hazardous jobs.
However, it is important to note that innovation and enterprise alone cannot solve the challenges facing workers in Nigeria. There is a need for policy reforms and the implementation of labour laws that protect workers’ rights and promote socioeconomic justice. This includes ensuring that workers have access to social protection, such as healthcare and pensions, and that they are paid a living wage.
It is also incumbent on government and other employers of labour in Nigeria to skill and re-skill their employees leveraging on the expertise and training infrastructure made available by innovation centres to ensure that the employees are brought to speed on the latest tools, trends and knowledge that could impact on their productivity.
In conclusion, innovation and enterprise can be used to achieve workers’ rights and socioeconomic justice in Nigeria. Digital platforms, social enterprises, and technology can create new opportunities for workers and improve their working conditions. However, policy reforms and the implementation of labour laws are also necessary to protect workers’ rights and promote socioeconomic justice.
Addendum: This piece is written from a conversation our analyst had with Dr. Rasheed Adebiyi, the Head, Branding & Strategic Communication, Opolo Global Innovation Limited, on how innovation could be the game changer for overhauling perennial labour issues and needs in Nigeria.