The Nigerian Worker and the Wait for a Fair National Minimum Wage

nigerian workers

By Kenechukwu Aguolu

The Nigerian workforce eagerly awaits an increase in the national minimum wage, as they struggle to cope with the country’s economic challenges. The federal government has taken a step in the right direction by approving a salary increase for civil servants while promising that a new minimum wage will soon follow. However, the current minimum wage of N30,000 falls significantly short of meeting basic needs and has plunged many workers into a life of absolute poverty.

To put this into perspective, the World Bank sets the poverty threshold at individuals living below $1.9 per day. With a minimum wage equivalent to roughly N100,000, Nigerian workers find themselves well below this line. Sustaining oneself, let alone supporting a family, on such a meagre income is a daunting task, making it nearly impossible to fulfil even the most basic needs and aspirations.

Fairness in Employment Practices

When evaluating the fairness of employers in Nigeria towards their workers, the situation reveals a nuanced landscape. In the private sector, compliance with the national minimum wage is relatively common, as most employers adhere to legal requirements. However, some exploit the low minimum wage by offering salaries just above this threshold, taking advantage of the high unemployment rates in the country. Consequently, highly qualified individuals often find themselves receiving inadequate compensation for their skills and contributions.

On the government’s front, there is ample room for improvement. Recognizing workers as the backbone of society, the government should establish a reasonable national minimum wage. Inadequate compensation not only affects the welfare of workers but also carries widespread societal implications. Therefore, there is a clear expectation for the government to prioritize fair wages and working conditions for Nigerian workers, acknowledging their indispensable role in maintaining the nation’s prosperity.

Consequences of Neglecting Worker Welfare

Before the current administration, instances were rampant where state governments failed to pay workers’ salaries on time, with some only providing partial payments. Such neglect towards worker welfare has led to tragic consequences, including reports of workers resorting to suicide out of frustration and children dropping out of school due to financial strain. These outcomes underscore the severity of the situation, highlighting the urgent need for intervention.

It is possible that research could uncover a connection between the neglect of worker welfare and the rise in levels of insecurity. While this is not meant to justify criminal behaviour, it is important to note that financial pressure is a major factor in the “fraud triangle” and can significantly contribute to fraudulent activity. Addressing issues related to worker wages is crucial in reducing financial burdens and mitigating associated societal impacts, such as increased insecurity.

Determining a Fair Minimum Wage

While advocating for a minimum wage of N494,000 by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) might seem ideal, determining the appropriate minimum wage is a complex task. It involves considering factors such as the cost of living, inflation rates, and the financial capacity of employers, including governments at all levels.

Pushing for a substantial increase in the national minimum wage is appealing, but acknowledging economic realities and feasibility is crucial. State governments, often citing limited funds, must prioritize workers’ welfare while maintaining fiscal responsibility and sustainability. Boosting internally generated revenue through initiatives like enhancing tax collection, investing in infrastructure, and promoting entrepreneurship could address this challenge.

Conclusion: A Vision for a Prosperous Nigeria

Achieving a fair and sustainable national minimum wage requires collaborative efforts among the government, businesses, and labour unions to establish an equitable and sustainable minimum wage for all stakeholders involved. It is essential to establish a robust mechanism for enforcing the national minimum wage to ensure that workers’ rights are protected and upheld. As Nigeria navigates its economic challenges, prioritizing fair wages and worker welfare is not only a matter of social justice but also a crucial step towards building a prosperous and stable nation.

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