It’s been two years since the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released Nigeria’s official unemployment data of 33.3 percent for the fourth quarter of 2020, but no figures have been released since then.
The latest data was released on March 15, 2021, eight months after it released unemployment figures for the second quarter of 2020.
Analysts say the delay is not good for Africa’s biggest economy as it shows a case of misplaced priority towards human capital development, lack of innovation, investments and wastage of resources towards solving unemployment in the country.
A country’s unemployment data is a major macroeconomic indicator that measures the performance of any economy, and help to hold politicians and policymakers accountable for their promises.
“The outdated unemployment data is indicative of how human capital development and the initiatives towards harnessing it are valued in the country. This suggests that the intentionality in solving the unemployment menace in the country is questionable,” Olamide Adeyeye, partnerships manager at The African Talent Company (TATC), said.
He said while the regularity of publishing the unemployment data is an outcome indicator of the success or failure of many employment and economic initiatives, it also provides the background for which multi-level stakeholders can collaborate to sustainably harness the country’s human capital and scale socioeconomic development.
“No meaningful development happens without valid, accurate, current and relevant data. If there is no access to it or it’s outdated, initiatives in a state are either designed blindly or implemented based on assumptions,” he added.
In 2015, three unemployment reports were released, for Q1 (7.5 percent), Q2 (8.2 percent) and Q3 (9.9 percent), in June, August and November respectively.
In 2016, four unemployment reports were released for Q4 2015 (10.4 percent), Q1 2016 (12.1 percent), Q2 2016 (13.3 percent) and Q3 2016 (13.9 percent), in March, June, August and December respectively.
In 2017, only two reports were released, for Q4 2016 (14.2 percent) and Q1-Q3 2017 (14.4 percent – 18.8 percent), in June and December. In 2018, the unemployment data for Q4 2017- Q3 2018 (20.4 percent-23.1 percent) were released in December, and the report for Q2 2020 (27.1 percent) was released in August 2020.
Muda Yusuf, chief executive officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, said: “Unemployment data is very critical for everyone and that the fact that we don’t have an updated one up till now is not a good thing for planning and the economy.
“It is not good because we need data for people to understand what is happening in the economy and to understand what the issues are, so that those in government will know the kind of policies to put in place.”
He said one of the challenges the economy has is data availability, the timeliness of the data, and quality of the data. “If the quality is not so good but if it is coming timely, at least it is better than having no data at all.”
Nigeria lags in terms of timeliness of unemployment data compared to some other African countries.
South Africa released its unemployment data for Q4 2022 (32.7 percent) last month, Ghana’s unemployment data for Q2 2022 (13.9 percent) was released in September last year, and Egypt’s unemployment figure (7.2 percent) for Q4 2022 was revealed last month.
“Countries that publish their unemployment data timely show how serious they are in terms of creating job opportunities or investing in solving unemployment,” Adeyeye of TATC said.
When BusinessDay spoke to NBS on the reason for the delay, Ibrahim Wakili, its director of communications, said “We are on it right now. But instead of doing it quarterly, we are going to be doing it monthly now.”
He said he could not immediately discuss further details on the phone.
There are expectations that the country’s unemployment rate may have worsened in subsequent years as a result of the slow growth in major job-creating sectors of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing and trade.
Data from the recent 2022 Gross Domestic Product report show that economic activities in the agric sector slowed to 1.88 percent in 2022 from 2.13 percent in 2021, manufacturing declined to 2.45 percent from 3.35 percent, and trade plunged to 5.08 percent from 8.62 percent.
Damilola Adewale, a Lagos-based economic analyst, said headwinds such as insecurity, flooding, escalating prices due to Russia-Ukraine war, high diesel prices, scarcity of petrol, high cost of foreign exchange and monetary policy tightening affected the capacity of the agric and industry sectors to create jobs.
A recent survey by Jobberman conducted between June and July last year showed that 65 percent of 2,228 respondents between the ages of 18-35 years old were without jobs.
“Amplified by the global economic crisis, COVID-19, insecurity, and the current political landscape, Nigeria’s labour force is undergoing significant disruptions at all levels,” it said.
It said that while there was a huge exodus of talent from the country, layoffs, retrenchment, and termination of contractual work arrangements were common in many employment sectors.
The high unemployment in Africa’s most populous nation is said to have contributed to the increase in crimes such as armed robbery, banditry and kidnapping, which have made it difficult for the government to attract the investments needed for job creation.
Many are seeking opportunities to travel abroad, fuelling a massive brain drain that is hurting the labour quality in the country.
According to the British government, the number of Nigerians given sponsored study or student visas rose to the highest in four years by 768.7 percent to 59,053 in 2022.
The number of new study permits issued by Canada to Nigerians increased year-on-year by 17.8 percent to 16,195 in 2022.
In order to tackle the country’s unemployment crisis, Ayodele Akinwunmi of FSDH Merchant Bank recommended that the next administration, which comes into power in June, should create an enabling environment for private sector companies to survive.
“They should be granting policies to give initiatives to them so that they can produce and employ more thereby reducing criminal activities,” he said.