The Need to Review Nigeria’s Unemployment Status

The Need to Review Nigeria’s Unemployment Status

How do Nigerians define unemployment?

According to Investopedia, unemployment is “the term for when a person, who is actively seeking a job is unable to find work.” Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it as “the state of not having a job.” In the terms of Wikipedia, unemployment is “the state of being without any work yet looking for work.” Judging from these definitions, one can say that when a person is unemployed if he does not have a paid job, say the regular 9-5 jobs. This may be the reason the rate of unemployment is said to be very high in Nigeria.

But, does unemployment truly mean a lack of paid jobs as the above definitions imply?

According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), unemployment refers to when “persons above a specified age {are} not being in paid employment or self-employment but {are}currently available for work during the reference period” (as cited in Wikipedia). With this definition, one can see that so long as a person has a source of income, he is employed. This also means that a person doesn’t have to work for hours daily to be classified as employed.

So, why has the self-employed not been duly categorised as employed?

It may interest you to know that Nigerians, including government officials, have categorised jobs into three: temporary jobs, permanent jobs, and businesses. Permanent jobs are usually identified as government-paid works, jobs in multinational companies, and any other one that “pays well” and has some levels of job security. Only people in this type of job are considered employed by Nigerians. Businesses, on the other hand, stand for people that voluntarily decided to be their own bosses. This category, however, does not cover people, who are victims of circumstances and those that have no physical office.

Temporary jobs, also known as casual jobs, are never considered as employment in Nigeria. This is the type of job people say, “There is no work so he is managing this one.” The workers here also brand themselves as unemployed. For instance, a bricklayer will be quick to tell you, “I no get job o” because he hasn’t seen himself as having one. However, casual workers change their employment status by themselves when they begin to earn handsomely from their work. By then, they group themselves as entrepreneurs and register among the employed.

So, is it proper to brand casual workers as unemployed? Answers are left for you to provide.

There are also a group of persons that have never been identified as belonging to the labour force. Lots of money comes into their hands but they are not even gazed upon as employed or even having sources of income. These are those that belong to the informal sector of the economy.

Has anyone else wondered if motor-park touts (aka agebro) are regarded as employed by the authorities? Yes, Nigerians tell them to “go and look for jobs”, but has it occurred to you that they actually have jobs? What about beggars, street hawkers, medicine vendors (in buses), bouncers (in clubs and parties), and the rest of them? What employment status is created for them? Ok, shall we look at the illegal professions such as prostitution, cybercrime, fraud, pickpocket, illicit drug peddling, and so on? If we keep morals and the law aside, can we say these people are unemployed? What status defines them? Do we still believe they are victims of circumstances or that they chose to be in those professions? No matter how we look at them, these people have sources of income. Since one does not have to deal in legal jobs to be defined as employed, people doing the above-mentioned jobs are not unemployed.

The essence of this essay is to draw the attention of the concerned authorities to the modalities used in measuring unemployment in Nigeria. The essay hopes to make it known that the number of Nigerians categorised as unemployed may actually have jobs that put food on their tables, clothes on their backs, and roofs over their heads. The essay hopes to influence Nigerian authorities and other stakeholders to review and redefine unemployment in the country.

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