Massive unemployment is always one of the signals of a depressed economy. During the Great Depression of the early 1930s, there was an economist of practical means who came to global limelight by advocating macroeconomics and state intervention on the battered world economy, and incidentally started a new economic school of thought. He was so influential that President Richard Nixon, a former president of the United States, in 1972 was quoted to have said, “We are all Keynesians now.” This was due to the fact that John Maynard Keynes, both in theory and practice helped the world to navigate out of the Great Depression.
According to Keynes, “The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up.” People would reply, “that’s stupid, why not pay them to build roads and schools?” Keynes would respond saying, “Fine, pay them to build schools. The point is, it doesn’t matter what they do as long as the government is creating jobs.”
I believe this to be the logic behind the ongoing recruitment of the 774,000 Nigerians across all the Local Government Areas, LGAs of the Federation. The Coronavirus Pandemic has changed the direction of the economy towards a recession. The ripple effect of reducing unemployment can be seen in rising aggregate incomes, demand, and expenditure. It’s therefore praise-worthy that President Mohammadu Buhari blessed the initiative and directed Mr. Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, to execute the task. On the flip side of the significance of this project is the inequality of job distribution with respect to the individual population of each state.
Extrapolating the 2016 population estimates from the NBS: National Bureau of Statistics (See the table below), we are going to see that the allocation of the 774,000 jobs according to local government factors alone is not equitable. If labour is a function of population size, then states with the largest population like Kano (13m), Lagos (12.5m), Kaduna (8.2m), Katsina (7.8m), Oyo (7.8m), and Rivers (7.3m) should be better off than other states by attracting the highest number of jobs. However, this is not the case.
Also, one would expect the states with the highest number of LGAs to benefit the most but, this isn’t the case either. States with the largest number of LGAs like Kano (44), Katsina(34), Oyo (33), and Akwa Ibom (31) are all behind Osun State. Yes, Osun State will be the greatest beneficiary from this employment. How did I know this?
I divided the number of jobs each state will get by its population and multiplied by 100% to get the ratio of the population that will benefit from the Special Work Project. The ratios I got range from 0.16% to 0.64%. Therefore, Osun State with a ratio of 0.64% tops the list of states that will get the most number of jobs. Conversely, Lagos State with the least ratio of 0.16% will get the lowest number of jobs. The logic behind this is that states with the largest population figures and relatively fewer number of LGAs will have small ratios while states with smaller population size with relatively larger LGAs will have larger ratios.
Reducing the Inequality
No doubt population size would have been the best determining factor for the distribution of the 774,000 jobs. Say, for every hundred thousand people, a state should get a thousand jobs. It’s not too late to include this factor as the state selection committees are still in the process of selection.
Reducing the inequality should be the responsibility of the state governments. As development partners in a federal structure and in a recession, rescuing the economy from sliding further into a depression should be a collective task. Using Lagos and Osun states as case study, which is most appropriate as the states with least and best benefits; if the federal government is recruiting a thousand labour from each local government area, Osun state with 30 LGAs will get 30,000 jobs with an injection of 600 million naira wages for three months. Lagos will get 20,000 jobs and 400 million naira wages. Where is the fairness in this? Why should Lagos with more than double the population of Osun State get 10,000 less jobs and 200 million naira less in wages?
Still on Lagos (this is also applicable to other states), it’s within its capacity ,for example, to recruit 500 more labour from every LGA to reduce the inequality. An extra 10,000 more jobs for Lagos will put it on the same level with Osun State. This is just an improvement and not an optimal adjustment. The federal government should not be asked to increase the numbers, this should be done by every state to underscore their commitment in providing the jobs they promised their citizens during the last general elections.
To avoid duplication of functions and conflict of interest, the states that desire to reduce this apparent inequality should work with the federal set-up state selection committees by sponsoring the number of slots they can fund. Please, be reminded that the population data I used is for 2016. This is four years after, certainly the population have grown. As the latest data available I had to use it to make my point.
I call on the National Assembly to sheath their swords for the sake of the masses you represent and allow Mr Festus Keyamo, the minister of state for labour and employment to execute the task given to him by President Muhammadu Buhari. The lives of the masses matter. As our representatives, it’s not your ego the minister supposedly bruised but ours and we don’t care. All we care about now is employment. Do not be anti-Keynesian.