Under Buhari, Unemployed Population Surges by 17 Million


· Working age rises by 19.93%, total unemployed by 396%

· LCCI asks FG to ease policy constraints to investment

Gboyega Akinsanmi
The number of unemployed citizens in the country has increased from 6,063,482 in the 2nd quarter 2015 to 23,187,389 in the 4th quarter 2020, indicating a difference of 17,123,907 people who are not employed, figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed.

Under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari alone, according to the NBS, Nigeria recorded at least 282% increase in the population of unemployed people, representing the highest ever since 1999.

These findings are evident in the new report, Labor Force Statistics: Unemployment and Underemployment the NBS released midweek alongside the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the rate of inflation in the country.

With this disturbing data, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has challenged the federal government to remove policy constraints to foreign and domestic investment as a measure to create more jobs and wealth nationwide.

The report, which THISDAY analysed year-on-year, revealed that unemployment rate grew from 6.41% in 2014, the last full year spent by former President Goodluck Jonathan in office to 10.44% in 2015, the year Buhari took charge, representing about 62.87% increase in the rate.

From 10.44% in 2015, the report further revealed, unemployment rate sprouted to 14.23% in 2016, accounting for a 36.3% increase within the year; 20.42% in 2017, a 43.49% upsurge between 2016 and 2017 and to 23.13% in the third quarter of 2018.

While unemployment rates from 4th quarter 2018 to 4th quarter 2019 were missing in the NBS spreadsheet, the report put the cumulative unemployment rate in 2020 at 33.28%, indicating a 43.88% jump from the 3rd quarter 2018.

By implication, according to the NBS data, unemployment rate increased from 23.13% in the 3rd quarter 2018 to 27.11% in the 2nd quarter 2020 and 33.28 in the 4th quarter in 2020.

Precisely in the 4th quarter 2014, the report put the total number of unemployed citizens at 4,672, 449, which rose by 71.98% to 8,036,102 in the 4th quarter 2015; by 43.72% to 11,549,310 in the 4th quarter 2016; by 53% to 17,671,142 in the 4th quarter 2017; by 18.43% to 20,927648 in the third quarter 2018 and by 10.79% to 23, 187,389 in the 4th quarter 2020.

In correlation with the workforce statistics, the report revealed that of the 101,769,739 within the working age in 4th quarter 2014, about 28,838,131 were classified “not in the workforce”, which accounted for about 28.34%.

In the 4th quarter 2015, the report revealed that the working age population had risen by 3.19% to 105,023,335 while 28,065,412, about 26.72% of the workforce, were classified as utterly out of jobs or outrightly unemployed.

By 4th quarter 2016, according to the NBS data, the working age population increased to 108,591,600 while the population of those who were not in the workforce rose to 27,439,715, which accounted for 25.27% of the workforce.

By 4th quarter 2017, the report revealed that the workforce increased to 112,118,970 while the population of citizens classified as “not in the workforce” declined by 6.77% to 25,581,431 in the same year.

While the working age population grew to 115,492,970 in the third 2018, the NBS report put the population of those not in the workforce at 25,022,378 with a 2.19% marginal decrease.

In 2020, however, there was an unprecedented rise in the working age population to 122,049,400 while those who were not in the workforce increased to 52,373,932, which accounted for 109% change between the 4th quarter 2018 and the 4th quarter 2020.

The spike, as shown in the trajectory of the increase in unemployment between 2014 and 2020 extrapolated by THISDAY, has a strong correlation with lockdown measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 between March 2020 and August 2020.

While the working age population grew by 19.93% between 2014 and 2020, as THISDAY analysis revealed, the unemployed population grew by over 396% within the same timeframe.

Concerned by a record frequency at which unemployment is growing, the LCCI observed that the growing proportion of unemployment reflects the state of the economy.

In a report by its Director-General, Dr. Muda Yusuf yesterday, the LCCI ascribed the country’s unemployment rate to economic meltdown, which it first entered in the second quarter 2016 and also third quarter 2020.

Yusuf, in an in depth analysis of Nigeria’s troubled economy, observed: “It is difficult for an economy in recession or an economy that is stagnating to create jobs.”

On this note, he recommended an effective stimulation to ensure that the economy regains momentum, which he argued, could arrest the worsening joblessness in the country.
He explained: “There is a strong relation between investment growth and employment generation. And for investment to grow, the business environment must be conducive, and investors’ confidence must be restored.

“Obstacles to investment growth must be removed. These include the growing insecurity, which is disrupting activities in the agricultural sector rendering many farmers across the country jobless. The sector is a major employer of labour.

“The disruption accelerated the rate of unemployment in the country. Investors are also grappling with numerous regulatory and policy challenges impeding the capacity of investors to create and sustain jobs,” he observed.

He explained the challenges with most regulatory institutions both state and federal levels, which were disproportionately focused on revenue generation, an approach that heaped additional burden upon businesses and individuals.

He, therefore, called for policy stability and consistency to address the country’s threatening unemployment rate with focus on inconsistencies in foreign exchange policy; sudden change in import duties/tariffs and uncertainty in the regulatory environment.

He urged the federal government to address all the issues around foreign exchange policy and management, especially with respect to liquidity crises and exchange rate volatility
He, also, recommended the need to create “an environment that reduces investment risks and addresses the structural challenges in the economy especially the high infrastructure deficit that has been inhibiting the growth of the real sector of the economy.

“Logistics issues and bottlenecks at the ports remain very big factors in the job creation equation. Above all, we need to fix the investment environment for SMEs. This segment of the economy provides the largest number of jobs and it is very critical to accelerated job creation,” he said.