International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day in some countries is a celebration of laborers and the working classes promoted by the international labor movement which occurs every year on May 1st. In commemoration of Worker’s Day, NOIPolls reflects on findings from one of its past polls on issues facing Nigeria, conducted in January 2018 which revealed job creation (39 percent) as the top priority on citizens’ list of what government should focus on in 2018.
This is no surprise as unemployment has been one of the greatest challenges facing the Nigerian economy snowballing into other socio-economic issues such as poverty and insecurity amongst others. Moreover, the issue of unemployment has maintained an upward rising trend over the years. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s unemployment rate rose from 14.2 percent in Q4, 2016 to 18.8 percent in Q4, 2017. Not to mention youth unemployment rate in Nigeria which increased to 33.10 percent in the third quarter of 2017 from 29.50 percent in the second quarter of 2017.
Furthermore, while the onus is on the government to create jobs especially through an enabling environment for SMEs to thrive, there is a clear indication that Nigerians are willing to explore various opportunities in tackling the issue of unemployment. In revealing their aspirations for 2018 (shown in the figure below), the majority (33 percent) of Nigerians indicated that they would love to start up a new business or expand their businesses for those who already have businesses, further buttressing the high rate of unemployment in the country. The result also portrayed that some Nigerians are either not employed or are not satisfied with their present state of employment as 19 percent disclosed that their goal for 2018 is getting a job or to have a change of job.
In view of the May Day celebration, reflection on workers welfare especially in the area of the minimum wage is also pertinent as this plays a huge role in incomes among families at the bottom of the income distribution as well as the poverty rate. A poll conducted on workers welfare in 2011 poll showed that Nigerians believed that the minimum wage of ₦18,000 naira was inadequate hence they clamored for an upward review to ₦56,000 naira. Seven years following the outcry of Nigerians through the opinion poll on minimum wage, it still stands at ₦18,000 in 2018. While the government is working towards a new minimum wage, it is important for an urgent implementation of necessary steps towards improving workers welfare in Nigeria. In line with this, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, during a dinner and award night organised to mark the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) 40thAnniversary celebration held in Abuja in March, 2018, stated that the Federal Government is committed to ensuring that the new National Minimum Wage meets the present economic realities.
Finally, as Nigerians join the world in celebrating worker’s day, it is pertinent for government to address issues pertaining to job creation, minimum wage, and welfare of Nigerian workers. An important line of action the government needs to adopt in creating jobs through an enabling environment would be to address Nigeria’s infrastructure issue; especially in the area of adequate power supply as this would naturally incentivize the spring of more SMEs and attract more foreign investors. This will, in turn, lead to more employment opportunities in the country. Another critical line of action which needs to be considered is the revival of the agricultural sector with an emphasis on improving the image of agriculture in Nigeria to attract youth participation; employing greater use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT); partnership with the private sector; easy access to land and credit in order to generally make agriculture more lucrative. These would go a long way in tackling the issue of unemployment especially for the Nigerian youths as well as create opportunities for multiple streams of income even for the employed.