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Underemployment on the rise: Can Tinubunomics solve this problem?



Last week, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) introduced a new unemployment rate of 4.1%. This sparked widespread discussions about whether these figures are accurate and trustworthy.

In response to this update, ThePressNG hosted a Twitter space session on Tuesday. The session was titled “Perception/Reality: How do Nigerians feel about the unemployment stats?” During this event, participants openly shared their worries and suggestions.

One key point that came up was the government’s preparedness to tackle the secondary effects of this data, especially concerning underemployment. Orekelewa, one of the speakers, strongly emphasized that the attention given to the new data actually brings a more important problem to light: underemployment.

She highlighted that numerous Nigerians are involved in income-generating endeavors that barely manage to support their basic needs.

She questioned the underemployment statistics, suggesting that the NBS reports reveal concealed challenges that can be used to prompt government intervention in the labour market. Orekelewa stated,

  • “The government needs to think more seriously. A lot of conversations about palliatives and the government’s response to the removal of fuel subsidies have centred on implementing a new minimum wage. What this report has shown us is that a much higher proportion than is generally talked about of our economy and employment is either in the informal sector or agricultural sector. Many people do not even work for companies that are qualified to pay them the minimum wage.”
  • “I think if we look at it from the vantage point that this is not a good thing but rather offers us a paradigm shift about labor and work, then I think that we can start seeing areas where we can work to improve the quality of life for Nigerians.”
  • “Another speaker, Olumide Adesina, took a different approach by not faulting the data approach of the NBS but by questioning the report’s ability to reflect the current realities of the average Nigerian. He acknowledged the challenges in collecting data in Nigeria, a country less reliant on electronic systems than advanced markets.”

Another user on the X platform, Femi Adeolu voiced concerns over the issue with the unemployment rate.

In his words,

  • “I do not have any issue with the data, for those wondering about it. I can understand, the major problem is unemployment. We all know that Nigerians are hardworking, we just do not have the opportunity to shine yet.”

Adesina noted,

  • “The unemployment data surprised a lot of people. The methodology the NBS used was not wrong, but it does not apply in our context. Looking at the minimum wage in Nigeria at N30,000 for 80 hours a week, previously calculated at 20 hours a week, raises concerns. When you divide that by N30,000, you get about 30 cents. In the United States, the minimum working hour is about $9-$12. What this showed was that the interpretation in our context was wrong.”

However, Samuel, (Eco Evangelist), expressed concerns that the new data might disrupt potential solutions and reduce the urgency to address labour-related issues. He mentioned how these statistics could negatively impact investment pitches for gig economy platforms and job market growth.

  • “Imagine you wanted to put out a platform for the gig economy and you were trying to put some statistics in your pitch deck or something and these statistics destroy that way of adopting investments and growing the job market.”

Samuel added that while the new data may attract foreign investments, it could also affect budgets for social safety nets and job creation programs, essential for addressing unemployment and underemployment issues.

On the contrary, Victor Abisoye pointed out that a single narrative on the event of the new unemployment data was primarily born out of a sensational perspective.

  • “The reactions to the new labour data show that people did not read it through. The NBS spelt out the methodology used and even said they sampled 33,250 households. If I were to interrogate the data, I would ask why they did not expand the survey net.
  • “Besides the report simply captures the reality of paid labour It does not bother if the employed citizen is poor or rich, or if he is earning N5 or N500 million. The question is do you have a job?