Explainer: Why Nigeria’s Unemployment Figures Crashed to 4.1% from 33.3%
By Adedapo Adesanya
On Thursday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in a report titled Nigeria Labour Force Statistics Report Q4 2022 & Q1 2023, said Nigeria’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2023 from 5.3 per cent in the fourth of 2022.
This may have come as a shock to many, but it was expected as the NBS on April 20, 2023, made adjustments to how the figures will be calculated moving forward. The NBS adopted global standards as its new method and this crashed the rate from a high of 33.3 per cent released in 2020.
What is the new methodology?
In line with standards introduced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an employed person is defined as anyone working at least one hour a week, unlike the old methodology where you had to work at least 20 hours a week to be considered employed.
The new methodology introduced other fresh benchmarks as well. The sample size was widened to 34,250 as against 33,000. Also, the data will be gathered weekly as against quarterly in the previous method.
Other criteria include replacing the 13th ICLS resolution with the adoption of the 19th ICLS resolution, which introduces a new classification called forms of work ranging from own-use production work, employment work, unpaid trainee work, volunteer work, and other mandatory productive activities unpaid to third parties. The categories are mutually exclusive, but persons can work simultaneously on more than one of them.
People who were willing and available to work between 1-39 hours also now fall under underemployment, while before it was those who worked between 20 hours and 39 hours, and unemployment covers individuals who worked 0 hours even if they were available to work while before it was anyone who worked below 20 hours.
Also, before, it only placed people who worked between 15 and 64 years as the working population, but now it is anyone between 15 years and above. This means that aged people who work are brought into the frat.
This new method adjusted the sample population, and this restructured the numbers to 4.1 per cent.
According to the numbers:
With this new structure, about three-quarters of working-age Nigerians were employed – 73.6 per cent in Q4 2022 and 76.7 per cent in Q1 2023. This shows that most people were engaged in some jobs for at least one hour in a week for pay or profit.
About one-third (36.4 per cent in Q4 2022 and 33.2 per cent in Q1 2023) of employed persons worked less than 40 hours per week in both quarters. This was most common among women, individuals with lower levels of education, young people, and those living in rural areas.
The underemployment rate, which is a share of employed people working less than 40 hours per week and declaring themselves willing and available to work more, was 13.7 per cent in Q4 2022 and 12.2 per cent in Q1 2023.
It added that most Nigerians operate their own businesses or engage in farming activities.
“Unemployment stood at 5.3 per cent in Q4 2022 and 4.1 per cent in Q1 2023. This aligns with the rates in other developing countries where work, even if only for a few hours and in low-productivity jobs, is essential to make ends meet, particularly in the absence of any social protection for the unemployed.
“22.3 per cent of the working age population were out of the labour force in Q4 2022, while it was 20.1 per cent in Q1, 2023.
“The rate of informal employment among the employed Nigerians was 93.5% in Q4 2022 and 92.6% in Q1 2023.”
An in-depth analysis of this new methodology and questions about whether it adequately examines the Nigerian situation were raised in this Stears article.